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Hometown Hero: Ernest and Vickie Williams

For many families, going to see Santa Claus is an annual tradition.

But what if St. Nick didn’t speak your language? Could you ever believe he can bring you the items on your wish list?

Imagine a world without sound. Santa Claus may visit every good little boy and girl, but it may be tough to believe if he doesn’t understand sign language.

But for almost a decade in Huntington, no such barriers exist.

“Oh it’s the best, number one thing in the world, to be Santa with deaf children and sign with them. I love them,” Santa Claus relates through a translator.

Ernest and Vickie Williams come every year to Mountwest Community College for Brunch with Santa Claus.

Right before the big entrance, hands go up in the air, shaking with anticipation and excitement.

For dozens of kids and their families, Santa and Mrs. Claus are the first to speak their language.

“’I saw Santa Claus and he’s real. You know why? He signed,’” said Callie Smith, a deaf interpreter and teacher to students who have attended. “That explains it all.”

You can see in a child’s eyes, and some adults too, the legend of Saint Nick bridges all barriers. A particular hand sign is constantly repeated all over the room – a thumb, index and pinky fingers outstretched. In American Sign Language, it means ‘I love you.’

“Really, it touches my heart,” said Santa. “It excited me to see those kids and let them know there is a deaf Santa for them.”

Always faithful at his side, Mrs. Claus is deaf and blind.

It’s a special connection for 10-year-old Ray, a special friend of Smith’s. He was so excited about the day, he was up till midnight talking with his brother about meeting Santa Claus.

“For him especially, with Mrs. Claus being deaf/blind, it’s just that connection that you can’t break with these kids,” Smith said. “I’m just so thankful they do this for these babies.”

Ray’s dreams are coming true, with lots of red fire trucks, even some that make noise.

He’s not the only one whose Christmas list is coming to life.

Santa’s daughter Laura Williams is sharing her father with the crowd. But she doesn’t mind.

“I’m proud of him, just proud of him,” she said. “I’m a daddy’s girl and I’m very proud of him.”

She said this is the highlight of Santa’s year. This event means more to her than even Christmas Day spent with the whole family.

“It’s a big deal, a very big deal in my family,” Williams said.

This year is even more special.

Last year, Santa had triple bypass heart surgery and couldn’t make an appearance. But he’s back — a boy who never got to meet Santa growing up, now making sure that so many don’t have the same experience.

“I love being with them,” said Santa. “That truly is what keeps me alive. It keeps me going as Santa.”

Bringing children’s dreams to life, that’s a Hometown Hero worth celebrating.

“I cried,” Williams said. “He’s a very humble man, and I know this means the world to him.”

“I definitely see a hero, definitely see a hero,” adds Smith.

The Deaf Santa Brunch has been at Mountwest Community College for about a decade.

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