Santa visits Ross Elementary students for Adopt-A-Classroom

Santa handed out gifts to students at Ross Elementary School.
(Luke Harold)

Santa Claus made an early visit to students at Ross Elementary School in Clairemont to hand out gifts on Dec. 17 for Adopt-A-Classroom, a San Diego nonprofit that provides support for low-income students.

“It puts such a smile on my face,” said Rancho Santa Fe resident Ellen Kiss, who founded Adopt-A-Classroom in 2005. “It’s just joy. They’re so happy.”

Large plastic bags with stuffed animals, puzzles, socks and other gifts were piled in the Ross Elementary auditorium, as students in the transitional kindergarten to fifth-grade school filed in to see Santa, sitting on the stage and flanked by a few helpers.

Lani Carlstrom’s first grade students lined up to get their gifts after the kindergarteners. After collecting their gifts from Santa, they sat in the corner of the auditorium to open them, as Christmas music played in the background. Children lined up for a class photo, then hugged and thanked Santa on the way out.

Kiss, who works in real estate, said she does all the shopping for the students herself. She holds the holiday event at a different school each year, in different school districts throughout San Diego County, and preparation for each one takes place throughout the year.

“I wish I had a warehouse,” she said. “But I have my garage.”

Kiss said she was inspired to start Adopt-A-Classroom from her experience growing up in a small house in Ohio as one of nine children.

Some of Adopt-A-Classroom’s other programs over the years have provided school supplies, books, exercise equipment, bicycles, trash pickup around school property, and footballs, basketballs, volleyballs and soccer balls to elementary school students. Other holiday events have included its “Christmas Store” event that allowed students to receive tickets that could be redeemed for gifts for every 20 aluminum cans they recycled.

For more information about Adopt-A-Classroom San Diego, visit