BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) – If you’ve ever thought that teenagers today don’t have heart, you’ve yet to meet Nate Howard. He’s a 16-year-old Inver Grove Heights student who is out to prove you wrong.
“Here you go, Merry Christmas,” Nate said to one of the many children passing by at the Mall of America.
There, amid a crush of last minute shoppers, was Nate — in his beard of white and suit of red. He’s dressed as Santa Claus to help spread the true meaning of Christmas giving.
As another child and his parents approach Nate, he asks, “If you can tell me the three things you’re thankful for I can give you three dollars.”
In his right hand, Nate grips onto a fistful of one-dollar bills — 100 of them to be exact, which he was given as a gift from his grandfather.
“At Thanksgiving time, I give each one of my (seven) grandkids a $100 bill,” explained his grandfather Lauren Howard.
The Santa suit was Nate’s answer to his grandpa’s challenge to learn a valuable lesson in philanthropy.
“I’m trying to get these kids to think about giving, donating and being a little bit compassionate for people less fortunate than they are,” said Lauren.
So as Nate walked around the crowded mall, child after child rattled off to this Santa what they cherish most. The answers were pretty predictable for the most part. Things like good parents, a warm home or food on the table. But one response struck a tender nerve in the teenage Santa.
“One girl said that she’s thankful for her grandma’s cancer being taken away,” said Nate.
In less than an hour, his wad of cash had vanished, all of it given away to young children.
“It would have felt much better giving it to people rather than spending it on myself, because it’s the holiday of giving and that’s the way I feel,” said Nate.
When Nate and the other grandchildren gather on Christmas Day, they will take turns describing how they distributed their money in charitable ways.
And in return, each of them is sure to get an overwhelming feeling of goodness that no money could buy.
WCCO-TV’s Bill Hudson Reports