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Santa Joe gets a big hug out in front of the Summer House of Santa in the 1100 block W. Pikes Peak Ave. on Tuesday.

Up Santa's driveway and past an antique school bus and Chevy, beyond a photo-op with elves and reindeer and an 1880 sleigh, sits a festive little building adorned with wreaths and Christmas trees.

For those who weather the journey’s rather pleasant detours, that’s where they’ll find Santa Joe, joyfully waiting to hear their hopes and dreams, and perhaps impart a word of wisdom or two.

Good boys and girls (and their accompanying family members) can catch Santa Joe outside his “summer house” at 1116 W. Pikes Peak Ave. in Old Colorado City every day through Christmas Eve, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. While nobody will be turned away for lack of money, families are encouraged to donate to help pay Santa’s staff and fund the goodies he shares with his visitors.

“I give up myself, and it’s a huge, huge, huge stress for me, because it takes everything out of me because I put it all into each one of these kids — but I wouldn’t do it any different,” Santa Joe said. “It’s a season of giving, not receiving.”

The Santa’s Summer House experience differs from others across town in its interactivity, Santa Joe said. A far cry from long mall lines with little to keep you occupied, families can stop at any number of photo-shoot opportunities along the way, playing on buses or sleighs as they wait for their one on one with the big man.

Once inside, Santa Joe’s staff take as many photos as visitors like rather than “one canned one at the mall, where you say ‘cheese’ and everybody’s eyes could be closed or something since you only get one shot.”

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This experience has earned praise among local families who have actively sought out Santa Joe for decades, bopping back and forth between his many locations through the years, according to Julie White, the marketing and communications manager at The Resource Exchange. 

TRE has partnered with Santa Joe for 21 years to bring Christmas joy to children and adults with special needs. Earlier this season, the two worked with more than a dozen nonprofits for a drive-thru experience, where families could say hi to Santa from the warmth of their cars, all the while raising money for the Empty Stocking Fund.

“It’s important to understand that when you’re a family who has a child with some sort of difference, some sort of need, sometimes you cannot plan ahead for any event or activity,” White said. “Sometimes you just need to be able to show up when it's convenient to you.” 

All families — no matter the need, ability, age, or difference — can see Santa Joe with the knowledge they will be accommodated for, White said. 

Last week, Santa Joe said he received five busloads of sensory sensitive adults. He greets blind children with the knowledge they will use their hands to visualize his face and beard. For those who might have autism or be sensitive to touch, Santa prepares a spot not on his lap but on a seat beside him. 

“The thing is, you just take time for each kid and individual and give them an opportunity for them to be themselves,” Santa Joe said. “And you don’t tell them, ‘oh, you gotta be good all the time,’ because that’s not realistic. What I tell them is, ‘have more good days than bad days.’”

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