A North Vancouver woman is using her connections with old Kris Kringle to help him share his Santa magic with kids across Canada in a COVID-safe way this holiday season.
North Shore native Sarah Shandl and her business partner Jenna Kuzemski are the driving forces behind Virtual Santa Canada, bringing the Big Man to the masses by selling tickets to live video sessions with Santa Claus.
Both women have backgrounds in the entertainment industry and in hosting events, and in their travels have made connections with the Jolly Old Elf at various tree lightings, live events and Christmas gatherings over the years, said Shandl.
“We had an inside source there,” she said of her connections to Saint Nick. “We work with Santa for our events, we have access. … We both have done a lot of online virtual events as well, so the nuts and bolts of putting it together were easy enough to do. So we decided to give it a go and try to bring some holiday cheer to everyone.”
Regular tickets, priced at around $40, get you a spot in a video session with up to nine other families. The session starts with Santa checking names off a special “Nice” list.
“The kids don’t know that their names are on there, so it’s a nice surprise,” said Shandl. Santa also shares a special holiday story with the group before breaking off into one-on-one sessions in which kids can tell him what they want for Christmas and line up for screenshot photos.
“We’re trying to make it as personal as possible, given the weird times that we’re in in terms of video chatting instead of sitting on a lap,” said Shandl.
There’s also an option for a VIP experience for around $150 that gets one family 15 minutes of personal time with Father Christmas.
The Virtual Santa Canada crew also adheres to the merry mantra that it is better to give than to receive, and so they are offering free personal sessions to more than a dozen children through Make-A-Wish B.C. and Yukon, said Shandl.
Video sessions are open now for bookings, with the program running Dec. 3-6 and Dec. 10-13 across Canada. Shandl gave an extra tip for B.C. families, saying that the Thursday and Friday early evening sessions offer a lot of availability as they occur after all the kids out east have gone to bed.
Click here for more information or to book a session with Santa.