Saturday, December 4, 2021

‘Brave Santa’ breaks down barriers for those with disabilities

This week, Marilyn Golden, who launched the loud-and-proud “Brave Santa” movement by teaching children with autism what it’s like to ride the subway alone, died of pancreatic cancer.

Ms. Golden, who founded the nonprofit group Elf on the Shelf in 2002 and produced an annual “Brave Santa” video, spoke to Ms. Moss by phone on the Saturday of the 2015 holiday season. “She was very optimistic about her chances for getting well,” Mr. Moss said.

Holiday cards with pictures of Santa Claus gyrating around a couch, and playful lyrics like, “I’m gonna give you a ride tonight/On my motorcycle” prompted parents to ask for their kids to ride in the back seat. Ms. Golden told The New York Times in 2006 that when she showed the toys to parents, they’d shout out in shock: “He’s not real! He’s not a human! He’s not cute!” But, she added, “They think it’s cute when they put it on the dashboard and he rides up and down the stairs.”

And for years, in addition to creating videos, she took a personal mission to help the people and organizations serving young children with disabilities. She told me last week that it was more satisfying to work in the children’s disability field. “I wake up in the morning and I’m not afraid of what I’m going to do,” she said. “Because I know that it’s needed.”

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She worked for the National Center for Autism and Related Disorders, the Families of Autistic Children Coalition, Children’s Transportation Coalition and more, and championed legislation that supported children with disabilities.

Ms. Golden insisted on doing good work. “She saw how important it was,” Mr. Moss said. “I think she was a truly kind and giving person.”

As for “Brave Santa,” Ms. Golden said she made the video to encourage parents to let their children be courageous. She even felt so strongly about the message that she made sure there were 32 elves in the tape.

“To let them see that Santa is willing to go anywhere, even if it’s on his bike,” she said. “It’s ‘take a risk.’ And that’s what they do every day. They take risks. Even in the stroller. Even in the day care. It’s in their blood.”

Read the full story at Slate.

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