Christmas time is near, a time where Santa Claus comes down from the North Pole to bring joy to all who’ve been nice. Saint Nick has formed a special bond with a young man with special needs.
For much of his life, a disorder has left 22-year-old Ben Graff unable communicate effectively. Yet, Santa is someone who understands him better than most. For the past 13 years, Santa and Ben Graff have been inseparable.
“Of course I love all kids, but Ben is so special,” Santa said.
Graff was born with a pervasive developmental disorder. Over the years, it’s been difficult for his parents to watch him go in and out of the hospital.
“He was sick a lot, and has continued to have a lot of illnesses. But what we decided was that no matter what, when he was healthy, we were not going to isolate Ben, but we were going to make him part of our community,” Debbie Graff said.
It was 2003, when the Graff’s took their 9-year-old son to see Santa at the Shriver building in downtown Sioux Falls, and Saint Nick says he won’t ever forget it.
“He totally lost it, he jumped in my lap, he broke my glasses, cut my nose. He was just so excited! It was just fantastic!” Santa said.
“There was just a connection like no other, they looked in each other’s eyes and there was something special with them,” Graff said.
Since that moment, the two have spent a lot of time together. For Ben, Santa doesn’t just come for the holidays. He’s here all year around.
“He’s got magnetism that he just draws you to him,” Santa said.
Though he might not be able to say it, Ben’s mother is confident he feels the same.
“He discovers people on his own. The good and people, ” Graff said.
“If you’re lucky enough to ever meet Ben, you’ll never forget him, He is the most fantastic kid in the world,” Santa said.
Ben can only say about four words. And thanks to Santa, one his favorite words is “Ho-Ho”.