Deaf children sign their wish lists to Santa

Bardstown junior Kelsey Sympson signs with Santa at the Skate Box on Saturday.

Anna Anderson

Pop music and holiday standards thumped through the speakers at the Skate Box on Saturday morning as Christmas-clad WKU American Sign Language students and members of the Bowling Green area’s deaf community rolled around the rink.

The WKU American Sign Language Organization and friends held the fourth annual “Signing Santa.”

The event was both a celebration and an opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing children to be themselves by socializing and signing their Christmas lists to Santa Claus.

Four years ago, Regina Priddy, a retired mother of three who was then enrolled in an ASL course, had an idea. Her husband, Thomas Priddy, had dressed up as Santa for children at Dishman-McGinnis Elementary School in Bowling Green for years. He even donned the Santa suit and rode his motorcycle around their neighborhood.

“That’s what Christmas is about — it’s about the kids,” Thomas said.

That year, when Regina was unpacking Thomas’ costume for the holiday season, she wondered how deaf and hard-of-hearing children who communicated using ASL talked to Santa when they sat on his lap.

She asked Ashley Fox, an assistant professor of communications disorders at WKU and the faculty sponsor of WKU ASLO, and Fox said Priddy should research and find out for herself.

Priddy said children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing usually have a parent help them write a list for Santa, or the parents interpret.

“I said, ‘Santa Claus is supposed to know all languages,’” Priddy said.

She and other members of WKU ASLO hurried to put on the first “Signing Santa” that year. Since then, the event has grown and become a part of the deaf community around Bowling Green.

M.J. Harris and her three daughters have been to “Singing Santa” for the past three years.

Harris’s oldest daughter, Abriana Norris, is deaf. The 13-year-old attends Glasgow Middle School, where she is a member of the art club.

Though it’s hard for Norris, her mother and her two little sisters to attend other events the WKU ASLO because they live in Glasgow, she said she will always come to “Signing Santa.”

“It’s fun signing with my friends and new people,” Norris signed while Harris interpreted.

The crowd at “Signing Santa” was smaller than members of WKU ASLO had intended, possibly because of the Christmas parade downtown happening at the same time. But roller-skating, pizza and Christmas cheer abounded.

For Priddy, the mission of “Signing Santa” has been simple since the first year.

“If only one person signed to Santa, then it was worth it,” she said.