Sign language Santa brings holiday cheer to children in Aurora

Deaf and hearing-impaired children from the Aurora area had a chance to share their Christmas wishes this week with a Santa Claus who knows sign language.

Santa joined about 60 students, parents and teachers for pizza and gifts during a Thursday party at Luigi's Pizza in Aurora. The Aurora Noon Lions Club organized the event.

"This is an annual event that the kids and parents and teachers from the schools around here look forward to," said Allan Benson, an Aurora Noon Lions member.

Underneath Santa's red coat and white beard was Lisle resident Don Basalone, who is also hearing-impaired and speaks fluent American Sign Language.

"At least for the last five years, he's been the sign language Santa that 'talks' to kids," Benson said.

Speech pathologists and teachers from West Aurora School District 129 and East Aurora School District 131 also were in attendance.

The event has been a 15-year tradition for the Aurora Noon Lions. This year's party is done in partnership with Northeastern Illinois Association, a Sycamore-based special-education cooperative that serves children with autism, hearing impairment and vision impairment.

The history of the Aurora Noon Lions Club stretches back nearly 100 years. "We're getting ready to celebrate our sentential in 2022," Benson said.

Though the Aurora Noon Lions hold multiple events and service projects throughout the year, seeing a sign language Santa bring joy to children is always a special treat.

"It's a highlight of the year for our volunteers and our Lions Club members, too," Benson said.

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