The Coast News Group
Members of the Real Santas United to End Childhood Obesity team kick up their heels in preparation for the 64th annual Over the Line baseball tournament on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. Courtesy photos

Real Santas celebrate four years of progress to end childhood obesity

It was Christmas in July again this year at the Over The Line “beach baseball” tournament held in Mission Bay.

For the fourth year the Real Santas United to End Childhood Obesity and promote children’s health fielded their largest team ever, which this year included “Lady Santas.”

As in prior years, the team was a sensation at the 64th tourney on Fiesta Island. In past years the Santa team scored a first and second place in one of the Men’s categories.

The largest Real Santas United to End Childhood Obesity team takes the field at this year’s OTL tournament on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. Team members even have individual baseball cards.

Their biggest hits, however, have been their advocacy activities to help parents wean their kids off the fast, junk (now called “snack”) and processed “food-like substances,” which is leading to record levels of diet-derived illnesses in kids never seen in them just 20 years ago.

The statistics show that illnesses like nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases, bleeding bowel syndrome, diabetes, even heart disease and cancer, which are now showing up in elementary school children, have exploded. “It’s all due to the so called ‘American diet’ loaded with sugar, chemicals, pesticides and preservatives with the ‘processing’ stripping out both the nutrients and the fiber essential for good digestion,” says Sustainable Santa®, captain of the OTL team.

The Santas have educational programs that teach parents how to read and understand “food labels” including what is there and what “essential data” is missing.

Their biggest effort, however, comes at holiday time when they deploy Healthy Santas to farmers markets all over California. Locally, last year they had health-promoting Santas in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Leucadia and two in Escondido — a total of seven Santas in 12 markets in the county. They started with just one in 2013 and the list will grow larger again this year. 

In addition to taking holiday pictures with the kids, they pass out cards continuing “Santas 3 Food Rules” designed to get kids off the “bad stuff,” then send them into the market on a “treasure hunt” looking for “Santa’s Garden Bites” — tastes of wholesome real foods. These are provided by the farmer vendors and include foods that are fresh, raw, dehydrated or fermented — many of which the children have never tasted, but soon come to love.

“We also show moms and dads the importance of ‘eating the rainbow of vegetables’ highlighting the differing nutritional values of each color,” said Santa Glen, the OTL team member who staffs the Tuesday evening downtown Escondido market. “We have them make a game of picking veggies of their kids favorite color — and showing them how to prepare them to preserve both the taste and their nutritional value. Perhaps all reds this week, purple and yellow the next.”

At the OTL tournament, in addition to their batting and fielding talents, their entire ensemble of programs to promote kids health were on display.

“I love what these guys and now Lady Santas are doing,” said Carlin Palenske, the 2000 “Miss Emerson” Queen of the Fest. In 2014 she was very pregnant with her soon-to-be 3-year-old son Parker, and she asked the Santas to “stand up” to the task of making the San Diego area kids into healthy playmates for him. “They are doing a super job of doing just that,” Palenske said.

The addition of the Lady Santas to the effort is the result of needing to change the Coca-Cola-inspired image of Santa, who since 1931 has been an obese male clad in a Coke can-colored outfit, said Lady Santa Sara, a dual-citizenship Swedish-American engineer now living in Carlsbad. “In Europe we have Lady Santas whom we call Snow Queens, who not only accompany our Santas as they make their rounds, but on their own focus on bringing joy, happiness and good health to the kids and never distribute sugar-snacks,” she said.

“If we are to truly change the eating culture of American kids to prefer eating ‘real food’ we likely will need the help of these ‘Santa Nanas.’”

Since 2014 the effort has enjoyed the support of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (IBRBS), America’s largest Santa organization which is helping spread this effort nationwide. Visit them at or contact [email protected].