Santa Barbara Fifth-Grader’s Santa List, With a Rhyming Twist, Benefits Charity

Like so many youngsters, Coleman Mortensen is asking Santa Claus to bring him a bicycle this year.

But the 10-year-old Washington Elementary School fifth-grader asked for something else — not for himself, but for other children. And in rhyme, no less:

“For every child you could plant a seed,
of loving to learn by giving a wonderful book to read.”

Coleman’s letter to the Jolly Old Elf, published online, was selected as the winner of the “Dear Santa” contest sponsored by Noozhawk and Cox.

In an interview Wednesday, Coleman said he always gets a book for Christmas, and his hope was for other kids to get the same.

As the winner of the contest, Coleman received two gift certificates — one to McConnell’s Ice Cream and one for a holiday dinner at Jill’s Place — and also got to choose a nonprofit organization to receive a $500 donation provided by Cox.

“I’m so happy because I can pick a charity to help people in need. I think it’s a really good chance for people to help people,” Coleman said about nonprofits.

Coleman picked The Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, an organization that supports children with spinal muscular atrophy, also called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease.

The neuromuscular disorder is a group of different types of muscle diseases, and is connected to a genetic defect that causes weakness and damage of the tissue.

Four out of 100,000 people in the United States are estimated to have the disease, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The foundation is named after 5-year-old Gwendolyn Strong of Santa Barbara, who also attends Washington School.

Gwendolyn’s parents, Victoria and Bill Strong, started the nonprofit in honor of their daughter in 2009. Their focus has been research and awareness, all motivated by a desire “just to do something positive in a devastating situation,” Victoria Strong said.

The $500 will go toward one of the foundation’s iPad grants for which parents and guardians of affected children can apply.

“Holding a pencil becomes extremely difficult, turning the pages of a book, coloring,” Strong said. “Cognitively and emotionally, and socially, they want to do all of those things, but it’s physically too difficult.”

With iPads, Strong said, the impossible becomes possible for children afflicted with SMA. The iPads help young SMA patients more easily do many things, she said, noting that one girl learned how to play the piano this way.

Noozhawk has partnered up with Cox for previous events throughout the year.

“We’re very happy to support the community where we work, live and play,” said Sarah Clark, public affairs manager at Cox, who came to the school to meet with Coleman and Gwendolyn.

— Noozhawk intern Gabriella Slabiak can be reached at gslabiak@noozhawk.com


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