TROY — Chuck Karnehm, a former educator and a local Santa Claus for over 40 years, has written a children’s book, “Grandpa Jack and the Legend of Santa’s Helpers,” based on a family story he told to his grandchildren in case they ever caught him in his Santa suit.
Karnehm retired six years ago from teaching in Troy City Schools, having taught second grade his entire career, and he just recently retired from being a professional Santa Claus after donning the suit and embodying the Christmas spirit for over 40 years. He was specifically Troy’s Santa Claus for the last 25 years.
“Last year was my last year. I’m going to take a little time off so my wife and I can travel over the Christmas season,” Karnehm said.
The story that inspired his children’s book came about when his daughter, son-in-law, and their three children came to stay with him and his wife, Jane, a few years ago when they were in the process of moving into a new home.
“It was over Christmas time,” Karnehm said. He wasn’t too worried about two of his grandchildren, Bella and Lily — one of whom was too young to know about Santa and the other who was old enough to know about Santa Claus — finding out about his secret identity, but his grandson, Jack, was in the second grade at the time.
“I was afraid that, during the Christmas season, he would see me dressed up as Santa Claus going to different events,” Karnehm said, explaining he did not want to spoil Santa Claus for Jack. He got together with his wife and daughter to come up with a story to tell Jack that he was one of Santa’s helpers.
Karnehm recalled the excitement and anticipation Jack had the day he took Jack on a special trip to tell him about his role as one of Santa’s helpers.
“It was an amazing thing to watch him take this whole story in,” Karnehm said. Karnehm told his grandson that Santa needs helpers and that he became one of Santa’s helpers after trying to catch Santa putting out Christmas gifts one year. Karnehm said he told Jack that Santa let him become one of his helpers because of his belief in the spirit of Christmas.
“His eyes were as big as saucers,” Karnehm said. Karnehm told Jack how it took some time, but Santa enlisted his help by giving Karnehm a Santa suit. “I said, ‘Well Jack, sometimes Santa gets so busy with doing all these things and making toys and visiting good little girls and boys that sometimes he needs help. And he calls on just a small number of people to help him do this.’” Karnehm, along with his wife and daughter, later surprised Jack by showing him the Santa suit.
Karnehm’s story to Jack was shared throughout his family, who encouraged Karnehm to write a book. Karnehm decided to incorporate Jack, who is now in the eighth grade, into the book.
“It’s Jack as a grandpa, telling his grandson, who’s having trouble with kids in school telling him there’s no Santa Claus,” Karnehm said. “It’s pretty much the same story I told Jack with a few twists and turns.”
Karnehm described the book as a “neat story for kids who are on the fence” about Santa Claus.
“It’s also good for adults,” Karnehm said. “The Christmas spirit is real.”
Karnehm has two upcoming book signings featuring his children’s book, including one from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Troy location of Winans Chocolates + Coffees, 10 W. Main St., in the back room. That book signing is being hosted by Troy Main Street. At that signing, for every book he sells, Karnehm is going to donate $5 to Troy Main Street.
His next book signing will be from 1-3 p.m. on Nov. 13 at Jay and Mary’s Book Center, 1201 Experiment Farm Road, Suite C, Troy.
His book, “Grandpa Jack and the Legend of Santa’s Helpers,” can be purchased at Jay & Mary’s and Around About Books. Shoppers can also purchase it online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on Dorrance Publishing’s website at dorrancepressroom.com.