By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Debra Kelso and her husband Gary have been bringing joy to children as Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Giving Plate’s annual Christmas event every year for the past seven years.
“We turned this Christmas event that grew from just a little bucket of toys to handing out wrapped presents to putting on a full on bazaar that’s turned into a big party! Debra said.
The Giving Plate is a faith-based, youth-focused food bank that helps feed young people in Central Oregon.
But for the first time in nearly a decade, both of the Kelsos may need to step down from their holiday duties due to health concerns.
They’ll both be undergoing major surgery over the next couple of weeks.
“They found a little spot on my bladder which turned out to be cancer so we’ve dealt with that, I’ve had removal five times I believe,” Gary said. “They’re talking about having to possibly remove my bladder and prostate and having to make one up.”
Said Debra: “The hardware in my back has a broken screw and so I need major back surgery to fix this.”
While they do have a backup Mr. and Mrs. Claus just in case, the Kelsos fully plan on attending their annual event on the 21st of this month.
“They won’t be needed because we’re going to be there strong! Gary said.
To do that, they’re asking the community for gift of their own – a love seat so that they are still able to attend and sit with children.
“A Victorian style love seat that we could actually sit in and stay seated during the event would mainly be an asset for us that we’re able to sit down, love on the babies,” said Debra.
While their strength is admirable, I had to know: What makes the Kelsos so determined to be a part of the festivities despite their serious health concerns?
“We’re both stubborn enough not to be kept in a wheelchair or kept out of here,” Debra said, with Gary adding, “We’ve got stuff to do! With what’s going on with us, we could easily be at home just ‘Woe is me’ but there’s too much fun in this. To give a present here and there, it melts my heart. I love it.”