Deaf and hearing impaired get rare opportunity to sign with Santa

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. For most of us, sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what you want for Christmas is a normal part of childhood. But for some, it's not so simple.

Bass Pro held a special event at Santa's Wonderland Friday morning, inviting all those who are deaf and hard of hearing to come and sign with Santa.

For little and big kids alike, it was a dream come true. "I may be 17, but I feel like a kid again," says ARiana Collins.

Santa spoke their language, allowing kids to sign their Christmas wish lists. "It means so much to me. Every time we come here, she gets to talk to him in her own special language," says Jessica Espinoza-Michael, whose 8 year old daughter, Alexia, was born deaf.

"She reads lips and she has the cochlear implants. But once those are off, she's completely deaf," says Espinoza-Michael.

Many came on school field trips from all across southwest Missouri.
"So they've been practicing their list so they can sign it to Santa," says Linda Cheek of the Deaf Awareness Group of Southwest Missouri.

Cheek co-founded the Deaf Awareness Group of Southwest Missouri, which organizes this event. She has deaf children. "They would want to sit on Santa's lap, and I would have to interpret for them, and then when we would leave, they would ask, how come Santa couldn't understand me?" says Cheek.

"This way, she gets to go by herself and it's really empowering and it helps her," says Espinoza-Michael.

The rare opportunity brings out more than 100 people of all ages.
"Even the deaf adults come and sit on Santa's lap and sign to Santa what they want, because the deaf adults, when they were children, never had anything like this," says Cheek.

For the deaf and hearing impaired, it's an early, very special, Christmas gift. "We are very very very grateful to Bass Pro," Cheek says.

"The support that we have for the deaf community here in Springfield is awesome, and the fact that they do this here; it warms my heart, Espinoza-Michael says.

This is the 6th year for the event at Bass Pro, and the Deaf Awareness Group of Southwest Missouri holds many other events for the deaf community throughout the year.