“Gringo Santa” is back, with more presents and a special message for the children of Costa Rica.
“I want them to know that even Santa has problems, and we just have to go on,” said Ron Chamberlain, a 66-year-old U.S. widower who has traveled to Costa Rica for the past 12 years to deliver gifts to the less fortunate (TT, Dec. 8, 2006).
Last March, after two knee replacement surgeries on his left leg, doctors amputated his right leg, which was injured 11 years ago in a job-related accident. The surgery and a prosthesis removed his limp, thus alleviating the pain in the other leg.
Though he was relieved of his leg pain, Chamberlain faced problems at the airport this year on his way from the U.S. state of Michigan to Costa Rica.
“The same bag I used last year, this year they deemed oversized,” he said, explaining that he had to remove presents from his bag at the airport check-in counter. “Now 112 kids here won’t have Christmas.”
Adding insult to injury, Chamberlain said, the airline charged him for the bag carrying his prosthetic leg.
“I don’t think that anybody who’s an amputee should have to pay for that luggage,” he said.
Despite the setbacks, Chamberlain hopes to reach even more children this Christmas.
“I had 5,000 last year and figured that was with my bad leg,” he said. “With my good leg, I should have 10,000.”
“He has a heart of gold,” said John Weiler, owner of San José’s Hotel Don Carlos, where Chamberlain resides when he visits. “He gives to everybody.”
Chamberlain, who lives solely off a pension, hopes to connect with people or companies for help with donations of toys and other gifts. So far, he has acquired wigs, which he will pass out to cancer patients.
After playing Santa, Chamberlain hopes to spend a month enjoying the country.
“I’ve grown old, but I refuse to grow up,” he said.
How to Help
Anyone interested in donating to Chamberlain’s cause may contact him through Rodrigo Quesada at the Hotel Don Carlos, 221-6707.