GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Christmas is a magical time of the year when anything seems possible. But for the Burdette family of Mercersburg, Pa., the hope of taking their daughter Reese to sit on Santa’s lap was only a distant wish.
But, after battling back from a 2014 fire that caused severe burns to more than 35 percent of her body, the plucky 9-year-old made that wish come true Friday with a visit to Santa Claus during the final night of Greencastle’s Heritage Christmas.
With the spirit of a true champion, Reese — with her family by her side — came back from nearly insurmountable odds and returned home to a hero’s welcome in March after 662 days at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
It’s been two years since Reese sat on Santa’s lap to give him her Christmas list in person, but that all changed Friday.
“When we were getting out of the car, she said, ‘Dad, hurry up. I’m so excited. I haven’t done this in years,’” said Reese’s mother, Claire Burdette.
“She really wanted to do this. It’s all she talked about at the hospital last year,” said Nina Burdette, Reese’s grandmother and Claire’s mother-in-law.
So, Reese, her younger sister, Brinkley, and their parents, Claire and Justin, popped into the BB&T Bank on the square in Greencastle for a visit and a photo with Santa.
Reese entered the bank in her wheelchair, which she uses when she gets tired.
But it brought a smile to everyone’s face when, before anyone could mention the handicap accessible route to St. Nick — the spunky Reese hopped out of her wheelchair, bounded up two steps and put her hand on her sister’s shoulder to walk down the ramp toward Santa.
“Hello Reese. Hello Brinkley. What do you want for Christmas?” Santa asked the girls.
Their parents snapped photos and beamed from ear to ear.
“Everything we do is a big milestone, because we were so restricted (before), and you had so many regulations and rules,” Claire said.
Every year Kelly Sanchez of Mercersburg, Pa., and her father, Eddie Baxter, help Santa arrange his hectic North Pole schedule in order to participate in Heritage Christmas festivities.
Sanchez alerted Santa that Reese would be stopping by on Friday night.
“Doctors and medicine never thought she would get here, but Reese definitely had a different agenda to prove everyone wrong,” Sanchez said.
During her time with Santa, Reese asked for a drone and an Xbox, while Brinkley asked for horse figurines.
“You be good girls,” said Santa, who handed Reese an official Beanie Baby club bag while her sister received a Barbie.
“She’s a fighter,” said Santa. “She fought all the odds — it’s incredible that she’s here.”
After the visit with Santa, the family scheduled a horse-drawn wagon ride.
“This is all the Christmas I need — to have her home,” said Nina, nearly bursting with pride watching her granddaughters just being kids at Christmastime. “Reese is just so anxious to relive every (Christmas) tradition.”
The family has a jam-packed week planned, including father-and-daughter Christmas shopping, cookie baking, tree trimming and visiting Hershey Park, which is decked out for the holidays.
Claire’s even excited about making reindeer cups for Reese’s Christmas party at school.
“This is like we’re having our first family Christmas all over again,” said Justin.
By: Roxann Miller, special to the Herald-Mail
Source: Herald-Mail Media