There is a Santa Claus.



Just ask 4-year-old Jaylyn Kraus, who sat on Kris Kringle’s lap and received a stuffed toy last Saturday.



“My mom was visiting on Friday night and told Jaylyn, ‘Look at the window, Santa is peeking in,’” said Tandy Kraus, Jaylyn’s mom.



“Jaylyn would run over to the window and her grandma would say, ‘Oh, you must have just missed him.’”

There is a Santa Claus.

Just ask 4-year-old Jaylyn Kraus, who sat on Kris Kringle’s lap and received a stuffed toy last Saturday.

“My mom was visiting on Friday night and told Jaylyn, ‘Look at the window, Santa is peeking in,’” said Tandy Kraus, Jaylyn’s mom.

“Jaylyn would run over to the window and her grandma would say, ‘Oh, you must have just missed him.’”

Jaylyn didn’t miss him the next morning when one of the most heartfelt and beloved traditions in Grain Valley took place as Santa Claus and his elves visited Jaylyn’s Brigadoon Estates neighborhood on his newly renovated Santa Bus, complete with “GV SNTA” license plates.

“We were looking outside and heard the siren,” Tandy said, referring to the police siren that signals Santa’s arrival, “and Jaylyn looked outside and said, ‘It’s Santa! Grandma did see him. He’s at our house!’”

She ran outside with other neighborhood children and hopped aboard the bus where they were greeted with hugs, smiles and stuffed animals.

Kaytlyn Lindstrom’s grandma told her that Santa would arrive sometime Saturday – and the 10-year-old could barely contain her excitement.

“I got up Saturday morning, ate a doughnut and heard Santa was outside,” Kaytlyn said. “I got to run outside in my pajamas, get my picture taken with Santa and he gave me a stuffed bear. It was so cool!”

Owner/Operator Independent Drivers Association claims manager Chuck Johnston, a good friend of Santa Claus, arranged for an exclusive interview with St. Nick.

“Oh my goodness, I do remember the little blond girl, who was wearing the angel wings, and her friend who had just eaten the doughnut and ran out in her pajamas,” Santa said, smiling and chuckling. “They brought a smile to my face, I can tell you that. It’s the little girls like Jaylyn and her neighbor, Kaytlyn, that make the Santa bus trips in Grain Valley so special.”

Special elves Diane Adams and Jaime Henton said Santa’s weekend visits to Grain Valley, which take place the Saturday after Thanksgiving and run through the weekend before Christmas, are memorable and oftentimes bring tears to their eyes.

“We met a little girl who had a box of stuffed toys for Santa,” Henton said, “and she wanted to give it to Santa so he could give them to all the little kids in Grain Valley.”

It was her collection of toys that Santa had given her the past 16 years of his sleigh rides through Grain Valley.

“That little girl is on my good list,” Santa said, his eyes twinkling.

“We had a little handicapped girl, who came and sat on Santa’s lap and gave him a hug, and it was just so special,” Adams added. “Those are the moments Santa and his elves never forget. That’s why it’s so special to live in Grain Valley.”

Because of his close relationship with Santa, Johnston is able to give some of the special details about the annual Santa Ride.

“Santa didn’t always have that special bus,” said Johnston, a former Pillar of the Community Award winner and Grain Valley Person of the Year winner for his charitable deeds and work with Santa.

“When Santa started, he had a truck and a trailer. Now, Santa has that bus, and there is nothing more special than seeing the looks in the eyes of children and their parents when they come on the bus and meet Santa.”

Santa politely interrupts Johnson and mentions one thing about the weather and children with special needs.

“If you know Santa is coming to your neighborhood, and you have a young child or an elderly member of the family, I will be happy to come inside where it is warm and give them a gift and take some photos,” Santa said. “Two years ago, a man was waiting outside with his 5-day-old baby and it was very cold.

“I told that dad to get inside where it was warm, because I didn’t want that baby – who had just left its mother’s womb – to be cold outside waiting for me. We went inside and took the baby’s first photo with Santa.”

Through the hard work of his elves and contributions from the community, Santa was able to distribute more than 1,500 stuffed animals and toy cars and trucks to the youngsters in Grain Valley.

“Believe me,” Santa said as he laughed, “Santa enjoys his rides as much as the kids and their moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas do. To get a hug from a child is Santa’s gift at Christmas.”

Santa also wanted to thank Chuck and Chuck’s wife, Diana, who cooks a chili lunch for all the helpers.

“Diana is on my good list, too,” Santa said. “She was up until 3 a.m. the night before one of my recent sleigh rides to make sure all the toys were ready to go so I could hand them out to the children.”

That comment brought a smile to Johnston’s face.

“This is why Grain Valley is so special,” said Johnston, who also helped deliver more than 150 baskets to elderly residents and shut ins. “We care about people in our community – especially the youngsters and the elderly – and I think that’s why Santa wants to come to Grain Valley every year.”