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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • Boy plays Santa for nursing home residents

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  • By all accounts, Brody Harris is your typical 8-year-old.
    He loves playing and watching baseball and football, he brings homework home every night from school and is looking forward to spending time with his family and friends during his Christmas break.
    But it's what he does in his spare time that makes him extraordinary.
    Brody is the unofficial CEO of southern Oklahoma's "Santa for Seniors," and recently wrapped up his second year of the project.
    "It makes me feel good," he said. "It's something I wanted to do for them."
    Harris' grandmother used to work at a nursing home in Ardmore, so he is familiar with the senior population. Last year, he noticed that not all of the residents had presents for the holidays and thought this was a big issue.
    "It's Christmas," he said. "Everyone needs a present."
    Brody's solution? Have bake sales and fundraisers to purchase presents for nursing home residents.
    In only a month's time last year, he raised enough to purchase 100 presents for area seniors.
    This year, he doubled that number, reaching nursing homes in Ardmore, Tishomingo, Madill, Marietta, Healdton, Wilson and other area communities.
    "It's grown every year we've done it," he said.
    In 2012, it was primarily Brody and his friends and family who did the leg work. This year, they received help from Aspire, a home care and hospice group intended to help senior citizens in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
    "We were amazed an 8-year-old boy was doing something like this," said Aspire community liaison Jeanna Weaver. "It was a wonderful project, and we wanted to help them out."
    Turns out, the Harrises needed the help, as donations poured in and eventually packed the Aspire offices.
    "My living room was packed last year with gifts," said Brody's mother, Misti Harris. "I don't think we would have had the room for all of the presents this year."
    As for what they get the seniors, Brody and his mom said shopping for them is easier than shopping for family.
    "They just want lotions and socks and things like that," Brody said. "One lady just wanted a 12-pack of Dr Pepper for Christmas."
    And they don't skimp on the quality either. Misti Harris said when they go shopping, they buy the best product they can for the seniors.
    "You want to buy for them like you would your own family," she said. "I wouldn't buy cheap stuff for my grandmother, so why would I do that for these people?"
    In addition to what they buy, an "angel tree" type of program has been developed in some of the nursing homes to make sure everyone gets something.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Before, the nurses and aides would pick up these names and buy them gifts," Weaver said. "They spend the most time with these seniors and they're like family to them. It's not about a special time of year to them, it's about doing their job and taking care of these people, even if it means pitching in to buy them presents.
    "It took an 8-year-old boy to make people notice that, hey, this is a special time of year, so let's make it special."
    Donations don't just come from local sources either. Weaver said they had donations come from all over the state, and even as far away as Connecticut.
    "There are programs like this in other places, but not like this, not run by someone like Brody," Weaver said. "He truly is a senior whisperer."
    When he delivers presents with his brother, Colt, and the rest of his friends and family, Brody often spends time talking with the seniors, shaking their hands and giving them hugs.
    "It truly is amazing to watch him with these seniors," Weaver said. "He just talks with them on their level and isn't grossed out by them or scared of them."
    "I just like seeing them be happy," he said.
    This year's Santa for Seniors has finished, but plans are already in motion for next year. Misti said she plans on getting a sooner start than November, and Brody has high expectations.
    "I think we could do 300 next year," he said.
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