For those of you who still doubt the reality of Santa Claus, he is real and he lives, at least for part of the year, just outside of Middlefield. For the past 16 years, on a 93-acre North-Pole replica, Santa has operated a very special part of his business at his home called Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow. This division of the North Pole is open from June through September to critically and terminally-ill children and their families. Throughout the summer, Santa works from this location, and during the remaining part of the year, he travels in one of his specially-painted North Pole vehicles to hospitals and homes visiting these special kids. He is booked with up to three visits per day, several days per week.
Bill Dieterle is the care taker of the Middlefield division of the North Pole. Along with Bill and his wife, this property is home to six elf-pacas and eight of Santa’s reindeer, a new one born just this year. The Middlefield North Pole Village hosted 17 different medical organizations this past summer.
This village provides a retreat from the realities of life. “For one day, kids can come here and forget about their illness,” said Dieterle. “They have fun with their families and celebrate, what might be, their last Christmas. Siblings, moms, dads and grandparents come to visit us,” he continued. “And we do Christmas every day of the year.”
Santa will send buses to the hospitals to pick up children and their families; he will bring those on the entire NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) cancer floor out to Middlefield.
“On our biggest day this year, we had more than 1,000 people here,” said Dieterle, “And even with that many people, there was still room for more. On our average days we have approximately 300 to 600, plus volunteers. At the village, we have a nine-hole putt-putt, where kids in wheelchairs can play golf. Peck Foods sponsored an ice cream parlor, so we have hand-dipped ice cream and can make sundaes. We have a bakery; we bake our own chocolate chip cookies, sponsored by NARI (The National Association of the Remodeling Industry). We have a bank, post office and we just finished building a new toy distribution depot.” After children visit with Santa, the elves walk them to the toy depot to receive a gift.
“We have a pavilion by Reindeer Lake, where we cook hot-dogs, hamburgers, McNuggets from McDonald’s, and mac and cheese from Stouffer’s,” Dieterle said. “This is all operated by the Chagrin Valley JCs. They are here, in force, every time groups of children come. We also have a barber shop so every child can receive a haircut or trim. When the disabled vets were here, more than 80 received haircuts at Jovie’s Salon named from the movie “Elf”). All big and little girls get their fingernails done. Girls can have hair braided; and moms, the unsung heroes, can receive a back massage.” All of this is provided by Brown Aveda Institute in Mentor who will send five to 10 professionals on designated days.
At the Real Estate Office, kids get a certificate and become owners of one square foot of the North Pole. There is a train and tunnel, and kids are sprayed as they ride by the water tower. There is a general store so the elves can shop for the foods they like and the supplies they need to assist Santa.
Recently, Santa added a couple of therapeutic ponies for rides. Dieterle recalled, “Santa brought in these ponies unsure of how they would be received. But when, we saw a little girl, without legs, sitting latching to the pony’s mane, beaming at her mom, we knew this was a good idea.”
This year, volunteers will break ground for an all-denominational 101-seat chapel. Santa was informed by hospitals that families want to return to the North Pole after their child passes. The chapel already has an organ and there are plans for a choir loft. There is a helicopter pad on location to accommodate emergency needs.
Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow is the answer to a wish for many families and we are fortunate to have Santa in Middlefield. Santa’s Hide-A-Way-Hollow will except donations of toys, money, and help maintaining this division of the North Pole. All of the elves and helpers are volunteers; and all donations go directly to purchase toys, the Village upkeep and the needs of the children.
Santa’s Hideaway Hollow is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation and is not open to the public. You can write to Santa, at the North Pole, Middlefield OH 44062-8437.