by Jean Schurman
Who would have thought that the Christmas Spirit would rear its head in Costco? Even though there are Christmas decorations and gifts galore, that spirit is not really on display. That is, until a couple of people from the Bitterroot got together and began talking about life.
Life is a big subject, but for Jack Barber of Victor, life had been kind of rough these last few months. Barber contracted COVID this last summer and wound up in St. Pats Hospital for 14 days. He was put on a ventilator.
When someone is put on a ventilator, they are given drugs to paralyze them so they don’t pull the apparatus out. Patients are also sedated to try and keep them calm. “I wasn’t completely out,” said Jack. “I kind of knew what was going on.”
While he was in the hospital, Jack’s wife Robin was unable to visit him so she called him and “Facetimed” with him every day. She knew his condition was deteriorating when she was told to prepare for the worst. And then, the next day she received a phone call from a nurse at the hospital. She was prepared for what might be happening but then the nurse turned the phone around and there was Jack, he was smiling, and the ventilator was gone!
When Jack was at his worst, Robin had asked for prayers for him. “I felt those prayers,” said Jack. “It was like warm hands on me and it gave me such peace. It got to me.”
Jack came home and began his recovery. It has been an up and down process both mentally and physically. But he is gradually getting stronger each day.
Amy Linton had heard Jack Barber’s story from Robin last month. When she ran into the Barbers at Costco, she was surprised to see Jack. The two got to talking and Linton noted that that the more they talked, the more animated Jack became.
Now Jack, if you’ve never met him, could be Santa Claus’ brother, with his twinkling eyes and cheerful smile. This was what Amy saw as they talked. She told Jack and Robin that he should be Santa and spread some Christmas cheer. As she talked, the ideas for an appearance by Santa Jack just came rolling out. And the more she talked, the wider his smile became and the more his eyes twinkled. And that led to more ideas.
“I was so moved by his story,” said Amy of Jack. “You could just see his eyes lighting up. It touched my heart.”
“Amy really touched my heart,” said Jack who even uttered “ho, ho, ho” before the trio went their separate ways in Costco. But plans were in the works.
Amy got busy and enlisted help from friends. She found a Santa suit and elf suit (courtesy of Hamilton’s mayor, Dominic Farrenkopf). She even found a tree! Now they just needed a venue. And a cause.
Robin and Jack both liked the idea of having children come and visit with Santa. In fact, Jack’s eyes were back to twinkling most of the time now. They discussed many non-profits that could also benefit from a visit with Santa but nothing seemed to fit what Jack wanted.
About a week ago, Jack hit upon the non-profit. He wanted the Shriners Hospital in Spokane to be the beneficiary of whatever funds were donated. The reason, just one more part of the Christmas Spirit circle.
When Robin’s son, Jack Peterson, was in fourth grade, they noticed that he couldn’t run very well and his gait was not quite normal. They took him to the doctor who did some x-rays. Robin said she knew it was serious when the doctor called them later that evening and told them to get Peterson on crutches and not to walk without them until further notice. Peterson was diagnosed with slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). The ball at the head of the femur slips off the neck of the bone which causes pain, stiffness and instability in the affected hip. The doctor recommended taking Peterson to the Shriners Hospital.
Once there, Peterson was prepped for surgery. Jack, Robin, and Peterson all agreed the doctors and nurses there were outstanding and let the kids still be kids. Even in fourth grade, Peterson knew he wanted to play football, basketball and rodeo. After the surgery, the doctor told Peterson that he could do all three, except not ride broncs or bulls.
“The Shriners gave me the opportunity to become a three-sport athlete. That wouldn’t have happened without that surgery,” said Peterson. He was a standout football and basketball player for Victor and then went on to college rodeo at UM Western.
Jack, Robin, and Peterson all see this chance for Jack to star as Santa as a chance to give back but also a chance to share the Christmas Spirit.
Amy said, “It was clear who he needed to be, Santa!”
Amy has enlisted Myra McMasters aka ‘Spruce’ to be the tree in this event. ‘Spruce’ met the Barbers last Thursday night and immediately saw Jack’s twinkle and Christmas sparkle.
This Christmas trio will be at Cowboy Troy’s in Victor on Friday, December 3, and the next Friday, December 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Parents are encouraged to bring their children and their cameras to take photos with Santa. Donations will be accepted and earmarked for any child from Victor who needs help through the Shriners.