The two tried their best to communicate, giving just their names - Glenn and Gary - and pressing pudgy fingers to the glass to wave hello. It wasn’t much, but it was all they had.
It was 1952, and polio was ripping through the United States in staggering numbers. Joseph Salk’s vaccine wouldn’t arrive for another three years, and in the meantime, tens of thousands of cases were being reported each year.
It heightened parents’ fears of the disease and changed many kids’ lives forever, including Glenn and Gary’s.
Glenn had been diagnosed with polio at just two years old, spending the next 18 months at the Children’s Convalescent Home in Cincinnati. He doesn’t remember much of the experience – only visits from his family and talking with Gary through that small window. (The two would later spend all of grade school together, becoming lifelong friends.)
Mainly affecting children 5 and under, polio is spread from person to person, typically through contaminated water. It can attack the nervous system and, in some instances, lead to paralysis or death. But what’s maybe lesser known is post-polio syndrome, a group of potentially disabling symptoms that appear decades after the initial illness.
Glenn would battle that, too.
“At one point, the post-polio syndrome had worsened to where I couldn’t lift my arms higher than my shoulders or walk more than 20 feet without having something to hold on to,” Glenn said. “My left lung also doesn’t work properly because the left side of my diaphragm was paralyzed due to polio.”
He would endure surgeries and braces to help with weakened muscles, but the bigger challenges would rear their ugly heads years down the line.
In the meantime, Glenn was building a really good life for himself, despite a rocky start.
He was always very talented at art but decided to attend automotive mechanics school instead, thinking, at the time, that it was slightly “more macho.” He learned how to rebuild engines and work with engine parts before dabbling in a few other industries. Eventually, he got a job as a dispatcher for a transportation company, dutifully working for 33 years before his eventual retirement.
He started a family with his loving wife, Jacquie, and the two celebrated 51 years of marriage this year. With it came three children and 31 grandchildren – with one more on the way.
This is also around the time that Glenn became Santa.
Glenn and Santa bear a striking resemblance to one another. The rosy cheeks, white beard, jolly smile. It’s all there.
Nearly every time he heads to the grocery store or runs errands, Glenn is approached by kids and parents eager to talk to him. (He’s learned to keep candy canes in his pockets for just those occasions.) Do you remember that scene in The Santa Clause when Tim Allen sits on the bench, and a little girl comes up to him to share her Christmas list? It’s a little bit like that.
“Sometimes, the parents will ask to take a picture with me to show their kids and tell them that they saw Santa Claus at the store that day,” Glenn laughed. “It really brings me so much joy.”
Glenn has brought happiness to many people, and he’s done it while facing many challenges of his own.
The last few years have been hard. It started with an outpatient surgery that caused him to stop breathing. That led to double pneumonia and a two-week hospital stay. It was so severe that Glenn relied on at-home oxygen support for nearly two years after.
Next came a fall while mowing his grass. Glenn landed hard in the grass, shattering his shoulder. Jacquie noticed that his breathing was abnormal afterward and called 911. When he got into the ambulance, the medics realized he was having a heart attack. He would spend the next five months in physical therapy.
Then came COVID-19. Glenn received his booster shot, but 24 hours later, he developed a blood clot in his lung that nearly killed him, culminating in a month-long hospital stay.
Things were, shall we say, not so merry and bright. Santa – er, Glenn – needed some holiday magic of his own.
His post-polio syndrome has impacted his physical abilities, and Glenn relies on an electric scooter for mobility. His current scooter has seen better days and needs to be replaced. He also needed a mobility lift that could help transport it. And, for good measure, some holiday decorations to snazz it up a little.
Which begs the question: Where does Santa go with his own wish list? To Chive Charities and our donor family, of course.
Through your incredible generosity, we were able to fund one new electric scooter, one vehicle lift, one set of reindeer antlers…and a partridge in a pear tree…for a total impact of $7,618.
“This blesses me beyond measure,” Glenn shared. “Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”
It’s not called the Season of Giving for nothing. For Glenn, who gives so much of himself to his community. For our donors, who give so much to help their community.
It’s enough to fill you all the way up. ‘Tis the season for making wishes come true. Become a Green Ribbon Fund member and DONATE HERE.