PUERTO RICO (CNN) — The joy that Santa Claus brings to kids around the world was needed more than ever this Christmas in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Months after Hurricane Maria laid waste to the island, its people are still suffering in the aftermath.
Some of Puerto Rico’s children thought Saint Nick might not make the trip this year.
But even with his own home badly damaged, a local man continued with his tradition of dressing up as Santa and doling out gifts.
CNN’s Leyla Santiago reports.
Manny Rivera, aka “Santa” shouts, “Merry Christmas!”
This Christmas just hasn’t been the same this year. Rivera says, “The devastation in Puerto Rico was at another level.”
For many, the magic of Christmas has been overshadowed by the daily struggles of life after Hurricane Maria.
Rivera says, “A kid yesterday asked me yesterday to bring back his house the way it was before Maria.”
As he’s done for the past five years, this Santa gathered his elves to make sure the children of Puerto Rico know Santa is still watching.
“I’m going on my sleigh, my personal sleigh, and even though Maria banged it up a bit.”
This year, Maria has forced some of the kids he’s visited last year to move in with relatives in homes powered only by generators.
This part over here was hit pretty bad when Maria…”
Other children are in homes without water.
And Santa can relate. “I don’t have power. Still don’t have water, and still gotta to fix the roof to the house.”
Maria destroyed his home too.
But when Santa visits these children, they forget, even if just for a moment, about the challenges of the last few months the concerns for the future.
A woman says this year because the children lost everything, they were concerned not just about life but also about Santa coming. But that’s what makes this so special, that he did come this year.
For this moment, 6-year-old Alejandro forgets doesn’t get to spend Christmas in his own home.
He says this is what he put on his list for Santa to bring him, and he’s just grateful he got it this year.
And 7-year-old Jamel forgets he even doubted Santa finding him this year.
Enough proof, for at least a few families on the island to believe Santa is real.