Catching up with Santa Claus with just days to go before Christmas is no easy task, particularly when he’s running from event to event in Puerto Peñasco before the “big dance”. That’s why when Mark Olszewski recently dropped me a line to accompany Santa to the equine therapy ranch north of town, I hopped on board. When Santa drove up in the little white pick-up he had obviously temporarily traded for Donner and Blitzen, ensuring he could maneuver over the streets of Puerto Peñasco, Mark was curiously nowhere in sight.
As we made the 15-20 minute or so ride out to Rancho San José, Santa explained over the past few days he had begun his tour across Puerto Peñasco by first joining folk from the Playa Bonita RV park on a jaunt to Esperanza Para los Niños children’s shelter north of town. That day he had traded in his reins to catch a ride out to Esperanza in one of the municipal police “sleighs.” Olszewski – err, or rather Santa – next had appearances lined up at the Esperanza para Nueva Vida Community Center in the San Rafael neighborhood as well as the Holiday Party at the Basic Rehabilitation Unit (UBR) paired with a brief stop at Amores de Peñasco children’s home in town. He had also swung by the Fire Department and Police Station during the week to drop off a welcome $100 US holiday donation. Mr. Claus explained after our visit to the ranch that evening he would be going back to see the kids at Amores de Peñasco, plus may have other holiday visits in sight.
Photos courtesy of Mark Olszewski
Once at Rancho San José, which is home to Corceles del Desierto de Sonora Civil Association and their growing equine therapy program, Santa and I first visited the corral where Bingo was getting saddled up in preparation for a number of therapy sessions prior to the group’s holiday party. Organizers Claudia Lugo Gamez and Aarón Armando Pérez Nuñez told Santa the recently acquired horse blankets, along with a number of helmets, were made possible through fundraising efforts of their 1st equine therapy event in November.
Santa was visibly impressed as each young rider eased onto the backs of the trusty steeds, often walking alongside as each horse made its way around the large ring. One rider serenaded Santa with Cielito Lindo though most shied away, keeping a watchful eye on the bearded man in the red suit until eventually warming up and returning eagerly for a hug or fist-pump. One girl began to matter-of-factly explain what type of pull back toy car she had put on her wish list, after affirming she had been good all year. While the toy car dreamer was still looking up into Mr. Claus’ gleaming eyes, Claudia asked curiously, “What is his name?” As translator elf, I took a moment to look at the man in red next to me and the girl looking up at him…. “Santa,” I calmly replied.
Before we left, Santa presented Claudia with a donation of $100 US as a holiday gift to sponsor a young rider’s monthly session. Currently there are 15 children taking part in the equine therapy program, though 5 of these are still seeking sponsors. In addition, the program has a waiting list of at least 10 additional children. Sponsorship is 2000 pesos monthly (approximately $150 US) and tax-deductible receipts (for Mexican tax purposes) are available. If you’d like to sponsor a child for equine therapy, be sure to visit or contact them at: 638 384 2928 or 383 1391, or visit the Facebook page: Equinoterapia Corceles del Desierto de Sonora.