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Inflatable Rutland Santa spreads goodwill beyond holidays

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 3:16 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 6:34 AM EST
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Rutland, Vt. (WCAX) - The holidays may be over, but the spirit still lives on in one Rutland County neighborhood. Scott Fleishman brings together two families connected by a yard decoration that’s near and dear to a young girl’s heart.

One month after Christmas and there’s still one giant inflatable Santa in Rutland that’s not ready to be stored away. The sign it’s holding says, “Thank you Camellia, I’m staying.”

Three-year-old Camellia Carter lives just down the road from the inflatable Santa. At least once a day she asks her mom, Ashley if she can drive by it. It’s been that way ever since the Carter’s went on a light tour of the county before Christmas. “And that Santa was her favorite out of everything,” Ashley said.

Reporter Scott Fleishman: What do you say to mommy when you’re driving home?

Camellia Carter: I want to see my Santa on the way home.

The Santa is owned by Vince and Carla Chiarella. Vince says he had every intention of storing it away after Christmas. “It really was only up because I didn’t get around to taking it down,” he said.

But before he could get to it, Ashley dropped off a note from Camellia. She mentioned their Santa was her absolute favorite and asked if they’d consider leaving him on display for as long as possible. “Once I got the note, I was like, that’s it. It will stay as long as we can make it,” Chiarella said. “We were both tearing up, it was really just beautiful. It just made our day.”

The Chiarella’s own a print shop, so the day after receiving the note, the sign went up.

Reporter Scott Fleishman: Were you happy when you saw him with that big note for you?

Camellia Carter: Yeah, it’s my Santa now.

Ashley Carter: She’s in preschool now, so she’s learned to recognize her name. So, she picked that out immediately and she just lit up, so excited to see her name on it.

Even more exciting? The first meeting between the neighbors, and Camellia didn’t come empty-handed. “Did you draw for me?” Chiarella said. “That is beautiful. Thank you so much.”

Neither did the Chiarella’s. “Woah! A new sign!” Camellia said.

“She’s even cuter in person. Her eyes are beautiful, so excited about life, it’s great,” Chiarella said.

This year was actually the first time the Chiarellas decorated their house for the holidays. Because of everything going on right now, they say they wanted to get into the festive spirit and the inflatable Santa was a last-minute purchase.

“Made it special for sure. Definitely made it special,” Ashley said.

“For a neighbor or stranger to reach out and really just make somebody’s day -- it was really special, It really meant a lot to us,” Chiarella said.

One couple’s decision to help Vermont light the way with this jolly old elf, has given a young girl a smile brighter than any light could shine.

The Chiarellas are planning to keep Santa up until the spring when they hope to replace it with the Easter Bunny.

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