Frosty, the Clauses, Elves, and Others Spread Joy with Wintertime Character Letters

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Volunteer “characters” send hundreds of beautifully decorated, personal holiday greetings to kids in Tualatin and beyond from favorites like Santa, Mrs. Claus and Frosty the Snowman.
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Jack Frost won’t just be nipping at your nose this year, he’s also joining a half dozen of his winter friends in sending holiday cheer to Tualatin and beyond.

Sylvana, 3-year-old at the time, holds her letter from Santa last Christmas. She was one of hundreds of kids who got mail from their favorite wintertime character during last year’s Letters from Wintertime Characters program. Volunteers anticipate sending about 400 more letters this holiday season. Photo courtesy of Danyell Schneider

Mr. Frost is a featured character in Tualatin Parks and Recreation’s massive, volunteered-power, annual joy project, Letters From Wintertime Characters.

Parks and Recreation program specialist Marilyn Brault-Binaghi estimates she and her volunteers will send hundreds of letters from different characters to Tualatin and beyond this year.

The program works like this: instead of kids sending their wishes to Santa in traditional letters to the North Pole style, winter favorites like Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty, and Jack Frost write to them, surprising young friends with holiday cheer.

Loved ones request a letter online for a special someone, choosing from a list of characters or writing in one of their own. They stuff the form with details about the recipient that volunteers can use to create playful, personalized letters in character voice.

The result is a magical correspondence that reads like it’s from a dear pen pal who’s been keeping up with the recipient all year long.

“Santa is so proud of how you learned to walk! Isn’t it fun,” a letter to one young toddler begins. “Your special smile shows off your new teeth.”

 Brault-Binaghi started the program during the 2020 holiday season to help spread cheer and foster connection when many of the older adults she works with were particularly isolated by pandemic closures.

“I was looking for something intergenerational,” she said. “(The letter writing program) was a good way to connect with people in vulnerable populations, older people, and young kids. It was really hard for them to stay connected in that first year.”

She teams with a Tualatin library staffer to recruit volunteers. 

Volunteers say they have as much fun getting into character and penning letters with glitter ink on festive stationery as the kids have opening them.

“You can just imagine seeing that child’s face as they get the letter,” volunteer Patricia Blackburn said.

Blackburn, who’s been with the program from the start, writes about 40 letters a year, challenging herself to make each unique. She’s one of more than two dozen mostly older adults who keep the mail flowing.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “Even though the kids don’t know the difference, I try not to write the same thing twice.”

Mary Welsh, a retired Tualatin High School teacher, also loves the connection with kids and the creativity of “playing” a character, especially her favorite persona, Frosty.

“I feel like I can be really imaginative (as Frosty),” she said. “I talk about how I can have hot chocolate, but I have to be careful so I don’t melt.”

Though the Clauses top the request list, the campaign, as the “Wintertime Characters” name suggests, is intentionally broad, not tied to one specific holiday or tradition. 

Letters timed for Chanukkah, which begins the evening of Dec. 7 this year, are sent earlier. New Year’s wishes go out a little later. And, correspondences from the Three Wise Men, sometimes written in Spanish, for the Mexican Dia de Los Reyes holiday, are timed to arrive around Jan. 6.

“This is so important because it’s rough out there for a lot of people right now,” Welsh said. “If we can bring some joy, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Outgoing mail has more than doubled since the inaugural 2020 season, when volunteers mailed about 190 letters. Though many go to young children, Braut-Binagh also gets requests for developmentally delayed adults and older adults with memory loss.

This year, she anticipates sending about 400 in at least two languages, English and Spanish, and she has volunteers ready to add more languages.

She spends hours closing almost every envelope with a hand-pressed wax seal.

International mail, like the letter they sent to Aruba for a child whose grandparents live here, can’t have the wax seal. Though the requests originate in Tualatin, letters can be sent anywhere.

Extra special touches like glittery stationery and the wax seal dazzle young recipients.

“My 5-year-old daughter freaked out that Santa wrote her a letter,” one parent told Brault-Binaghi in a thank-you note. “She loved the paper (it was shimmery) and how Santa knew ‘everything.’ She told me all about how she knew it was from him directly because the wax seal ‘can only come from the North Pole.’” 

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