Jerry Miller always knew he wanted to be Santa, but it wasn’t until he retired that he figured out he could do it to benefit kids through a Wish with Wings. Because of this selfless act, The Stayton at Museum Way senior living community is recognizing Jerry Miller as the second recipient of the 2011 Stayton Salute to Seniors Award. Judy Youngs, executive director, and Lesley Irwin, office manager for a Wish with Wings, Inc., nominated Miller for the honor.
“Every year, by himself, Jerry sets up Santa Land at Lincoln Square in Arlington, and all proceeds benefit a Wish with Wings,” said Irwin. “Jerry is amazing and does this out of his love for kids. He is an amazing volunteer who gives countless hours to benefit our organization. He would be impossible to replace!”
The Stayton Salute to Seniors Award is presented quarterly to honor an individual who is making a difference in their community. Qualified nominees are active adults age 62 and above who volunteer their time and talents to their communities, and who also exemplify leadership, spirit, and citizenship.
“Mr. Miller truly cares about children and their happiness,” said Kerri Lambert, director of sales and marketing of The Stayton. “In addition to telling stories to the children who come to visit Santa, he also raises money to benefit the children served by a Wish with Wings. He is truly a remarkable individual.”
Miller, now 79, told his wife when their children were young that one day he’d like to be an old fashioned department store Santa Claus. After he’d been retired for five or so years, his wife reminded him of his dream. He immediately called the local mall only to find out that they hire a photography company to staff a Santa and sell photos. He then thought of Lincoln Square in Arlington, a mall that didn’t have a Santa. They were open to his idea and even gave him an empty store front and hired a decorator to turn it into a winter wonderland.
When Miller first sat down with Lincoln Square, he said he just wanted to talk to the kids and give them pleasant memories like he had as a child, and if possible, take a few pictures and raise money for a children’s charity. The acting manager of Lincoln Square had fond memories of working with a Wish with Wings and the rest is history.
“Word has gotten around that there’s this crazy guy in Arlington who thinks he’s Santa,” said Miller. “I’m a story-telling Santa. Kids have a lot of questions about Santa. I hope to give kids enjoyable memories so they can carry on Santa with their kids as they grow up.”
The people at Lincoln Square agreed to underwrite the cost of Santa, so 100% of the money made selling photos with Santa goes to a Wish with Wings. Miller also compiled a book of 20 or so stories about Santa that he sells for $7 each and 100% of the book proceeds also go to a Wish with Wings. In his first year, he raised more than $6,000 for a Wish with Wings. Recently his donations have been closer to $25,000. This year will be Miller’s 11th year to be Santa.
Miller has also served a Wish with Wings as a member of the board and president of the board of directors. Miller is also the Easter Bunny, and all of the kids served by a Wish with Wings come for a free photo with the Easter Bunny after picking up their baskets from a Wish with Wings.
Miller retired as sales and marketing manager for Lennox Industries. He has been married for 58 years to the woman who stole his heart back in high school. They have two children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild He currently resides in Arlington.
A Wish with Wings, Inc. is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that grants the Wishes of Texas children with life-threatening diseases. Working closely with children’s hospitals, child life specialists, and physicians our sole purpose is to grant the Wish of a child in need and bring a ray of hope and happiness into their lives during a time of sorrow and despair.
Since 1982, a Wish with Wings has touched the lives of over a thousand Texas children in need. With every wish that is granted, children are given the gifts of memories, laughter, and joy made possible by the generosity and kindness of others. For more information visit www.awishwithwings.org.
ABOUT THE STAYTON AT MUSEUM WAY
The Stayton at Museum Way, a $164 million senior living community opening in September in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, is an 11-story, three building community featuring 188 independent living residences with a variety of spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans. The Stayton provides onsite assisted living, memory support, and private skilled nursing for life care residents and others in the community.
The Stayton at Museum Way is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit senior living community sponsored by Senior Quality Lifestyles Corporation (SQLC), a Texas-based nonprofit organization that sponsors sister communities The Buckingham in Houston, Edgemere in Dallas, Querencia at Barton Creek in Austin, and Mirador opening in June in Corpus Christi. For information call (817) 439-6936 or visit www.thestayton.com.