In their letters to Santa Claus, most kids ask for toys, dolls or maybe a new Xbox.
All Jonah Simons said he wanted was a coronavirus cure to save the world.
That was last year. Jonah’s letter was collected through the US Postal Service’s Operation Santa program and published on CNN. It was one of many that revealed the pandemic’s toll on children around the country.
This holiday season, the 10-year-old Florida boy is back with a different request for Santa.
“Dear Santa, it’s me Jonah. Do you remember me? I was the one who asked for a covid cure,” he wrote in a letter addressed to the North Pole and shared with CNN. “btw, ty so much for the vaccine! You helped save lives. This year, can I please have a Santa costume to spread your joy around the world?”
His mother, Doe Simons, says Jonah composes his Santa letters himself, without help from his parents.
With a relentless virus and threats of the Omicron variant still plaguing a weary nation, Jonah has big plans for the Santa suit.
“I want to wear it and go around the neighborhood and spread Santa’s joy, ask people what they want for Christmas,” the fifth-grader told CNN.
Jonah’s mother says she’s not positive whether her son still believes in Santa Claus.
“But Jonah has experienced Santa-like moments. For example, last year he sent his Xmas wish out into the universe and it came true to a certain extent,” she says.
“I think writing that letter, even if he didn’t believe in Santa, for him was the ability to exert some control over the problem (of the pandemic). It was his way to communicate his feelings and express what he wished would happen.”
Helping others is nothing new for Jonah
Jonah has been spreading joy in his community of Parkland for years.
Growing up in Parkland, where a 2018 massacre left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has had an effect on Jonah and other local children, his mother says.
“What happened here had a lot of impact on children here. He was in middle school, and his school was on lockdown that day,” she says. “I think that like Jonah, you’re getting kids here who are civic minded and want to make a difference … When he sees the impact his help has on others, he wants to do more to help.”
Jonah turned 10 in July, and in lieu of gifts he asked his family and friends to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. His birthday effort raised $1,000 in donations from family and friends all over — even his favorite employees at the local Publix store, his mother says.
He also marked his birthday by donating his hair to Locks of Love, the charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer or other medical conditions. During a year of lockdown, he teamed up with some friends and grew out his hair to nine inches.
“It was so long, I got bullied for it,” he says. “Some people called me a girl.”
Jonah’s good deeds are not limited to birthdays. He works to help his community all year, including donating and sorting food for the homeless with the organization Feeding South Florida, and packing holiday gifts for children.
Doe Simons says her son’s charity begins close to home with his grandparents, who are in their 90s and live nearby. Jonah takes out their garbage every week, holds car doors open for them and helps them with their walkers up the elevator, she says.
He’s a would-be doctor whose medicine is love
Jonah has long found ways to spread happiness. At age 3 he started dressing up as a doctor to visit loved ones who were ill.
“Ever since he was a little kid, he always wanted a doctors’ outfit,” says his father, Joe Simons. “He would dress as a doctor because his medicine was love. He would visit family members at the hospital, check their vitals, talk to the nurses and prescribe a special medicine for them: love.”
At the start of the pandemic, Jonah asked his parents to buy him a “pandemic suit” with the personal protective equipment that health care workers wear at the hospital. He told them he wanted one in case he needed to visit relatives at the hospital and prescribe his love medicine.
Jonah hasn’t needed to do that yet, so he mostly wears the outfit at home when he’s treating his stuffed bear.
“His bear is very well taken care of,” his mother says.
Jonah has big plans for his 11th birthday
Jonah’s inspiration is Heather Khalil, a Parkland woman who volunteers a lot in the community and has been awarded the Mayor’s Medal of Charitable Service.
“She really turned him on to being a public servant,” Doe Simons says.
Jonah wants to be a lot of things when he grows up. Most days he tells people he wants to be a doctor, a lawyer or a police officer. But he thinks he can make a bigger difference as the leader of the free world.
“My best goal is to be a president,” he says. “That way, I can make changes to a lot of things and make decisions that help other people.”
Until then, he’ll continue helping people in his community.
Jonah already has big plans for his 11th birthday next July. He’s hoping that Covid-19 will be a thing of the past by then, so he can go to sleepaway camp without a mask.
He’s also signed up to be an ambassador for the homeless. And once again he plans to use his birthday to raise money for charity. Maybe he’ll even wear his Santa suit.
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