Over the past few weeks, inside Tina Tyko’s and Kevin Domer’s Rincon Valley home, the garage has morphed into a body shop for Santa’s sleigh. Their gym has turned into the jolly old elf’s workshop, piled with toys waiting to go home with good little girls and good little boys.
It’s part of the husband and wife team’s effort to make sure Christmas comes to everyone this holiday season, even the children who were burned out of their homes. What if Santa Claus can’t find them? It’s a fear even kids with roofs over their heads secretly harbor.
Domer, 51, has long taken on the role of what he calls “Santa ambassador,” donning the red suit for children’s parties around Sonoma County and at events put on by the city of Santa Rosa. But in the wake of the fires, this year took on a new significance for him.
“I remember a couple of years ago, we had a family move in across the street,” he said. “They moved in about this time of year, and I realized, boy, these kids are probably going to be worried that Santa doesn’t know where they live because they’re in a new house.”
Domer put on the suit and headed over there to reassure the kids that Santa knew where they were. The suit was a holdover from about 15 years ago when his office adopted a family for the holidays, and they decided there was no better way to deliver their stockpile of presents than for it to come courtesy of Santa himself.
That’s when Domer first took on his role as “Santa ambassador.”
“After the fires, I told my wife that these kids, they’ve lost everything,” he said. “You know they’re going to be worried that Santa doesn’t know where they live because they aren’t even sure where they’re going to be living.”
Since notifying friends and family of their idea, donations have poured in — toys, wrapping paper, gift cards — all of which Domer plans to deliver, as Santa, to children who lost their homes in the blazes that tore through Sonoma County in October.
“When we see the outpouring of support that we got from (these people), I’ll admit, it brings tears to my eyes every time I see what they’ve done.”
So far, Domer’s nice list includes 44 children who lost their homes in the fires, but he’s hopeful more will sign up.
“The community is my family,” said Domer, a Sonoma County native. “Right now we are all coming together to take care of one another like a family does, and the biggest thing is to believe in yourself. … If you believe in yourself, you can do anything, and to me that’s what Santa is — just believing.”
Anyone interested in contributing toys to their effort, or signing children up for home Santa visits should send an email to the family at email@example.com.
You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 707-521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeaWarren.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here