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Santa spreads Christmas cheer around the country by using sign language to communicate with deaf kids

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in every language.
/ Source: TODAY

One Texas-based Santa is spreading Christmas cheer by using American Sign Language to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing children.

NBC News caught up with Santa Charles Graves at the Gaylord Resort in Maryland as he visited with a group of children.

Graves, 52, is a fully authorized member of Santa Claus' team and also a member of the Deaf community.

He's traveling this holiday season to gigs across the United States as one of the few professional deaf Santas in the game.

"When they come here... and that child sees a deaf Santa Claus, there’s so much happiness," he told NBC News via a translator.

Graves as Santa uses sign language to communicate with a deaf child in National Harbor, Maryland.
Graves as Santa uses sign language to communicate with a deaf child in National Harbor, Maryland. NBC News

Graves told the Associated Press in November that he was inspired to grow his beard and don the classic red suit after awkward encounters with hearing Santas as a kid.

"As a child, I was very excited to receive a gift, but then you just kind of go away and you’re like, there’s no connection there. Children look at me now and they’re like, wow, you know, there’s a connection there with the deaf culture. And I can always connect with the hearing kids as well,” Graves told the AP at the time.

Graves normally lives in New Braunfels, Texas, where he has a day job at a school for deaf children. He told the AP that it'd been expensive to get certified as a Santa but it was "something really, really important to me.”

This winter season, Graves told the AP, he is slated for more than a dozen gigs, including a holiday parade in California, a mall in Austin, Texas, and at Morgan’s Wonderland, a nonprofit accessible theme park in San Antonio.

He also is available for Zoom visits.

For Kevon Woodard, a young boy in the Washington D.C. area, meeting a deaf Santa was a first.

"I asked Santa Claus if I could get a dirt bike and I want a black one," he told NBC News. "And Santa Claus said that I had to be a good boy. And hopefully I get my wish."

His mother, April Jackson Woodard, who is also deaf, told NBC News it was an experience she never could've had as a child.

"My mom said it was just important for me to say hi and give him a hug," she told NBC News. "And he would just give me a thumbs up. And that was it."

Another parent, Genie Gertz, said it was incredible to witness the kids have the experience of talking to Santa for the first time.

"Because there are so many Santa Clauses out there," she said. "And kids are loving the experience, but deaf children don’t have that. So to be able to connect is really important and amazing."

Jackson Woodard echoed those sentiments, adding that to see her son laugh and sit with Santa Claus had been "beautiful."

"This is exactly what it’s supposed to be. To see him laugh and make those expressions with Santa Claus was the best," she said, giving Kevon a hug.