COMPILED BY ROHINI RAMAKRISHNAN
It's a name that needs no address. So letters sent to the roly-poly icon find their way to the small town of North Pole deep in Alaska's interior, including those simply addressed to Santa. Last year, 120,000 letters arrived from 26 countries, not counting the thousands with no return address. Those that do have return addresses usually get a reply and a North Pole postmark in a holiday effort that has delighted children all over the world for decades. Gabby Gaborik is among several dozen volunteers who believe in the Santa cause, opening crates full of letters. With 6,000 now arriving daily, volunteers are hustling to send off preprinted replies to children who sent return addresses. "We try to keep the big guy mystical, so we sign off as Santa's elves and helpers," Gaborik said. In his 10 years as an elf, Gaborik has seen every kind of request. There are the children who want the latest toys and gizmos they see on TV. There are the children who ask for miracles, orphans wanting their mother back for Christmas or a father back from Iraq, even though he died there. Many letters point out how good they've been. Some enclose a dollar bill to cover postage. Gaborik still marvels at a missive that arrived three years ago with a Michigan postmark and it was addressed to Santa Claus and had no return address. Inside was a thousand-dollar money order and an anonymous note that said: "If you are who you say you are, you'll put this to good use."
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