We are still more than one month away from Christmas. However, Santa Claus has a lot of wishes to hear and grant prior to Dec. 25.

With that in mind, Saint Nicholas arrived at Strongsville’s SouthPark Mall Nov. 7 for his annual Christmas season stay. However, Santa needed help to be awakened from a long nap in time to hear children’s wishes.

More than 1,000 children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and many of Santa’s character friends did just that at this 14th annual pajama party event that welcomed the jolly old elf back to the Crossroads of the Nation.

Excited children packed the first and second floor areas of Cinemark Court, just to the north of where Santa will take up residence for the next five weeks. There were many surprises as the young ones were able to wake Santa, who was still in his pajamas and green robe, from his slumber.

But before they did, many of Santa’s friends gave it their best effort. Rudolph, Frosty, Mr. Jingeling, The Cleveland Indians’ hot dogs and Elmo were many who attempted to wake Santa to no avail.

At the end of the day Santa was awakened and began to greet children, many of whom dressed in their pajamas for the occasion, at his seasonal permanent location at the center court under the clock tower.

Santa’s Pajama Party was also a chance to raise money for A Kid Again, an organization that hosts families of children with life-threatening illnesses. The first 400 children at the event had the opportunity to purchase goodie bags for $2 and adults could buy raffle tickets for $100 with the proceeds benefiting the organization.

“It’s a party. We want to have some fun and love the idea that we can tie it into a charity making a difference. We probably made at least $1,000 for A Kid Again,” SouthPark Mall Marketing Director Andy Selesnik said. “Some say we push the season, but we didn’t twist 1,000 people’s arms to come to this.”

Strongsville residents Luke and Beth Colagrossi brought their young sons, Quin, 5, and Miles, 3, to see Santa. Luke wanted the Death Star from Star Wars and Miles wanted LEGOs.

“The kids have been talking about this for the past week when we found out that Santa was coming,” Beth Colagrossi said. “They are absolutely thrilled. Miles kept talking about waking Santa.”

She added, “The donations are a great thing for families that are going through lot harder times than we are. It reminds us how thankful we are.”

Austin, 3, and Samantha Hastings, 5, from North Royalton were dressed in their finest pajamas to sit on Santa’s lap and inform him of their Christmas wants.

Trucks were on Austin’s wish list, while Samantha asked for dolls and a LeapPad.

“This is our fifth year. They like it a lot,” Brian Hastings, Austin and Samantha’s father, said. “It seems like it gets earlier and earlier every year.”

Children can visit Santa Claus through Christmas Eve at SouthPark Mall. The difference is he will be greeting families in the familiar red suit instead of his green robe.

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