Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Pelican Bay State Prison has been receiving more than the usual number of letters lately - many of them addressed to Santa.

Kindergarteners and first-graders at Redwood School have been chosen by the prison to receive gifts as part of the prison's second annual "Operation: Santa" program.

The letters were part of a writing assignment asking the students to make gift lists that were then delivered to the prison.

Here's what one student wrote:

"Dear Santa,

I've been a good girl. I hope you and reindeer Rudolph are feeling well. I have three wishes. I would really like a Lalaloopsy Doll, a Barbie Doll and a paper fish.

Thank you."

The Lalaloopsy dolls were popular wishes, as were bikes. Some of the wishes were a bit too lofty to grant, such as quads (all-terrain vehicles) or pets.

"There was one letter even asking for a boyfriend for her mom," said Robert Losacco, community resource manager at Pelican Bay.

In all, 76 letters were delivered to the prison, where they were snatched up by staff members hoping to bring holiday cheer to the children, Losacco said.

"All the staff stepped forward once again like last year," said Losacco. "We had 11 kids ask for bicycles from Redwood School. (They) went right away and it really surprises me. You would think people would shy away from something so expensive."

Last year was the first at Pelican Bay for Operation: Santa. It was implemented by Warden Greg Lewis, who ran similar programs for the communities at his previous posts. The 76 letters are a big increase over the 54 letters received last year from Smith River School.

To deal with some of the grander gift wishes from the imaginative little ones, Losacco asked the teachers to have students write down three ideas. Or a staff member bought a gift that resembled the original idea, such as a remote control car in lieu of a quad - which was also a favorite. One kid even asked for a tractor.

A majority of the staff members will go ahead and buy all three of the gifts listed, rather than selecting just one, Losacco said.

The gifts will be handed out Friday by a prison sergeant dressed as Santa Claus and arriving at Redwood in Pelican Bay's fire truck, Losacco said.

"This year he was going to brush up on Christmas songs, so he could do more than just 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,'" said Losacco. "A number of our staff will be dressed as elves."

Losacco, formerly a principal in Sacramento, finds the reaction the children have to seeing Santa come to school memorable.

"I get so much energy from those kids and you could just feel the excitement coming off them when they see Santa Claus," said Losacco.

The plan for Operation: Santa is to move down the coast visiting and delivering presents to a different school each year. Next year it will be Pine Grove, Losacco said.

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