Jan Fried And Doreen Higa

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - December 08, 2010
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Jan Fried (on left) and Doreen Higa want you to know that, “Yes, there is a deaf Santa Claus!”

Since 1991, both Fried and Higa have been merrily spending their holiday season working as elves for Oahu’s only deaf and signing Santa. In fact, Fried helped come up with the idea for the annual “Yes, Virginia, There is a Deaf Santa Claus!” event during her first semester as a sign-language interpretation professor at KCC 19 years ago.

“We were discussing what types of free community events each program would put on for the holidays,” she recalls. “When it was my turn, I didn’t have any ideas. Then a colleague jokingly asked if there was such a thing as a ‘signing Santa.‘At that point, the light bulb went off to have a deaf Santa for the kids at the school for the deaf.”

Fried immediately contacted Higa, a speech-language pathologist at the Department of Education, and the two have been “elves in crime” ever since.

Together they get the word out to all deaf ed. classes statewide about when Deaf Santa is coming to town. They then help coordinate transportation, lunch and goodie bag distribution, group photos with Santa and all other aspects that go into making this event a success.

“As the self-appointed Chief Elf, I appoint the Queen Elf to find and train elves with the following prerequisites: Must have pointy ears, ASL skills a must and must have a happy, sane personality in a fast-paced, crowded environment,” says Higa, adding that KCC’s ASL and Interpreting students also serve as Santa’s little helpers as part of their major service-learning event.

“It’s not a job, it’s an adventure,” Fried adds. “Simply put, every child deserves the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and talk story with him directly.”

Higa says in agreement: “All kids are entitled to visit Santa at the shopping mall, to stand facing the jolly gentleman and describe all wishes by him/herself. I enjoy every hectic, fun-filled, exciting moment - it never gets old or boring!”

Fried and Higa will be on hand to assist Santa tomorrow, Dec. 9, at Pearlridge Center’s 19th annual Deaf Santa Celebration. The public is invited to join in on the holiday cheer, including unique entertainment by Hawaii’s most prominent deaf and hard-of-hearing performers along with Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen Lena Merrill and Miss Deaf Hawaii Chanel Duponte, from 9 a.m. to noon in the mall’s Uptown area. Call 488-0981 for more information.

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