Sewickley woman volunteers as Santa's 'elf'

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Maggie Roberts of Sewickley met a Christmas elf several years ago and has been helping to spread holiday joy ever since.

The “elf,” Jordan Dieterle, recruited Roberts, 20, as a volunteer for the nonprofit organization, Santa's Hideaway Hollow, when they met as freshmen at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

Run by Dieterle's father, William, who portrays Santa, the focus of the organization is to visit terminally ill children in hospitals and homes to bring joy to what could be their last Christmas. Dieterle has been helping Santa since she was 4 years old.

She and Roberts, both seniors at Wooster, recently raised more than $700 after setting up an information/fundraising table at the college's Lowry Center to try to capture students' interest.

“We wanted try to engage the students and have them hear us out. There was a lot of participation,” said Roberts, a studio art major and Quaker Valley High School graduate.

Roberts, daughter of Kimberly Roberts and stepdaughter of Stanley Ference, recruited many businesses and on-campus organizations to donate funds, food and raffle prizes toward the effort. The names of those nearly 20 sponsors were printed on the backs of T-shirts sold online. More than 200 shirts were purchased. About $2 from each shirt went toward the organization, raising more than $400 for the organization. Monetary donations totaled about $300.

Raffle tickets also were sold for prizes such as a gift-card Christmas tree, which included a total of 30 gift cards from local businesses and two gift baskets.

Roberts and her crew also collected new toys and recruited students to write letters to Santa as if they were children who wanted Santa to bring them something for Christmas.

The Dieterles will use the letters at their home in Middlefield, Ohio, which sits on 93 acres that has been transformed into a Santa village complete with the North Pole, reindeer, a Santa firetruck and ambulance, post office, game room, fishing area, candy store, bakery, a theater, carriage paths and elves, Roberts said.

When the ill children are feeling well enough, they often visit the Dieterle home. Some will read the letters Wooster students wrote to Santa to see what kind of presents other children have requested.

In addition to visiting children in the Cleveland Clinic and hospitals in the Cincinnati area with other volunteers Santa Dieterle also has visited children in Pittsburgh hospitals and marched in parades in Pittsburgh.

At times, Santa provides special requests from children such as a signed picture of Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu. Santa has visited with more than 58,000 ill children over the last 30 years.

Roberts said she has worked mostly behind the scenes every Christmas by wrapping presents and raising money. But, she said, she soon plans on also visiting with the children, and hopes to make the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital trip over Dec. 19 to 24.

She said the children, regardless of their age, religion or ethnicity, love to see Santa and his elves. Parents often ask doctors to delay a scheduled surgery until after they have had a chance to spend time with Santa.

“Over the years, such joy has been brought to my life during the holidays. Christmas, in particular, is a time of the year when I reflect on how fortunate I really am to have all I do.

“Whether driven by charity, giving, spending or even religion, it is a time of the year when many come together and realize what they are truly thankful for.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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