Every fall, for the past 15, we have had the pleasure of introducing the Theresa Pollak Prize honorees to you.
Harry Kollatz Jr., co-founder of the Pollaks, conducts interviews with all of the honorees each year, boiling that person's story down to 500 words, when each could be a full-length feature story.
A lot of good stuff ends up on the cutting-room floor.
One tale from Jason Marks, 2012's honoree for acting, couldn't stay there.
In 2010, while Marks was living in New York City, he got a gig "representing" Santa Claus at Macy's, complete with a $27,000 Santa suit.
The adults who came to see him were what made the job a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"It's almost like therapy," Marks says. "[The adults] don't know who we are, and they feel safe with you. It's your job to epitomize a childhood that they no longer have."
An older hippie couple in their 60s made a lasting impression. The man had long hair and was wearing a leather jacket. The pair wanted their picture taken with Santa.
Marks turned to the man and asked the usual: "What would you like for Christmas?" He grabbed Santa's hand and started crying. He told him that he had just been diagnosed with cancer.
Santa thought on his booted feet.
"Since Santa never makes promises he can't keep, I told them that they'd have a wonderful holiday together, and that the time they'd have together will be special."
The woman kissed him, and the picture was taken.
After they left, Marks recalls, "my elves were crying, and I was just a mess."
Six years ago, Kate Andrews joined our staff. With copy-editing skills honed in Northern Virginia and reporting skills sharpened in Charlottesville as she covered the University of Virginia, Kate brought sharp eyes, sharp writing and razor-sharp humor to our staff, and for all those things, we thank her. She has written some terrific features, including this month's piece on Kid Richmond and a moving 2011 piece on Marvin Anderson, who was falsely accused of rape and exonerated 20 years later. She also has been our media columnist and the editor of Richmond Bride. She is leaving us to join the good folks at ChildFund International. Now the world will learn of her talents. We'll miss you, Kate.