GREAT EXPECTATIONS: One boy's request for a personal elf.
AMERICA'S MOST WANTED: The Xbox 360.
MOST UNLIKELY: A woman's inquiry: Could Santa help her get pregnant?
A LUMP OF COAL: "Some kids told me they were going to poison my milk because I didn't bring them what they asked for the previous year."
ON THE SPOT: One girl managed to track down Gaborik, called him and asked, "Is this Santa?" he says. "I was stuck, so I said, 'Yes it is.' She was calling from the school bus—on her cell phone!"
WHY BOTHER? "Gabby just really wants to put a smile on as many kids' faces as he can," says Connie Bileddo, a.k.a. volunteer Elf Jangles. "That's why everyone in town wants to help him."
It's crunch time in North Pole, Alaska—and no one knows that better than Gabby Gaborik. Since 2001 the 61-year-old gravel pit owner has led a town tradition of answering the letters from children that pour into the 99705 zip code addressed to "Santa, North Pole" every December. Working from a tiny storefront, Gaborik and his band of 45 volunteers spend up to 20 hours a day addressing envelopes and putting stamps on some 30,000 printed responses, all signed by elves (www.santasmailbag.org). "The big guy has to stay mystical," Gaborik explains. Some memorable missives: