Meet Jeff Campagna, Deaf Santa ClausDecember 4, 2023 2023-12-04 11:05
Meet Jeff Campagna, Deaf Santa Claus
Meet Jeff Campagna, Deaf Santa Claus
Jeff Campagna was born to hearing parents. His hearing loss was not detected until he was four, when his ENT discovered a cholesteatoma (cyst) in his right ear during an adenoid procedure. No one is sure how much Campagna was able to hear before that time. In the following years, his hearing loss worsened caused by enlarged vestibular aqueducts (EVA). When he was 24 years old, he was driving home from work when his residual hearing suddenly vanished. For ten years after that, he was profoundly deaf but continued wearing a hearing aid in the right ear. Lip- reading and sign language were primary modes of communication for Campagna.
Not being able to hear at all, the music and the conversations were challenging, especially in Campagna’s work environment. But with a wonderfully supportive spouse, family, peers, and work colleagues, he was able to pivot and adjust accordingly. The opportunity to engage with others in whatever challenges they may face, not just hearing loss, is a positive for Campagna. “I hope that my journey continues to be a path that can inspire others to forge their own,” said Campagna.
Overcoming communication barriers associated with hearing loss requires a combination of strategies, patience, and understanding from both individuals with hearing loss and those they interact with. His parents were his strongest advocates in an era that had a limited support system for families of children with hearing loss. Campagna was equipped with the latest technology, a caring team of doctors, and a professional team that guided him through his childhood years. Fast forward to recent years with cochlear implantation, expansive selection of assistive technologies, and programs/services have truly elevated his ability to meet any communication barrier that he confronts.
Campagna and his wife, Jenni, are highly active with parent groups like HITCH-UP and summer camps at Camp Cheerio. They developed a young adult’s program that mentors those transitioning to college or work. They also are long-standing members of Hearing Loss Association of America and have participated in meetings and events with their local chapter. The Campagnas also pioneered the Hands On Hearing workshops through MED-EL for several years that provided hands-on experience with assistive listening technology. Campagna DJs special dances for children with hearing loss to provide a visual and interactive evening of great tunes and fun. He is also a recent member of the NC DHH Hero Program, to encourage connections and interactions between families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing and deaf adults.
“Born with a lifelong hearing loss, I remember the years of seeing Santa, being very timid due to my inability to understand him and could not engage. I just sat there and told him my wishes, but the magic was really missing,” said Campagna. As years went by, Campagna married an awesome woman and had two boys. He was asked to volunteer one morning to portray Santa to a small support group of families of children with hearing loss. Since he was able to sign, Santa was able to connect and communicate directly with this special group of children. Campagna was instantly hooked and 14 years later, he joined professional Santa organizations, bought, and made his own suit and accessories, continuously upgraded his appearance, and built props to be the best Santa Claus he can be.
Campagna can relate to the children and their families and mentor them as much as possible. Since he can also speak, he can provide a complete and well-rounded experience with children with hearing loss and their siblings. It makes the visit much more memorable when it can be shared by everyone and not only the child with hearing loss.
Being creative allows him as a Santa portrayal artist to develop and nurture magical experiences for children and families, both through in-person and virtual events. Combined with his theatre experience, creative skill set, and his inner child, he aspires to be the absolute best Santa he can be. His role as Signing Santa and his wife as Mrs. Claus brings such joy and blessings to both and fulfills their life-long goals of wanting to positively impact one child at a time.
One of Campagna’s favorite quotes is from Walt Disney. Disney always repeated that “It’s kind of fun to do the
impossible.” With hard work and determination, anything is possible. Disney was immensely successful in turning his visions (the wildest of them) into a reality that has gone above and beyond our expectations. This applies to
Campagna’s career and personal life as nothing is impossible to achieve if you have the will and desire to make it happen. “No matter what you are faced with in life, do not let anything discourage you. Do not be afraid to take risks. Believe in yourself, just go, and do not look back,” said Campagna. Campagna wants others to know, do not go at it alone and do not let the hearing loss define you. Just. Do. You.
Campagna has two websites: www.jeffcampagna.com that features his professional work and www.jollybigelf.com that is his Santa site. Campagna would love the opportunity to connect with other hearing loss communities and organizations to support them via his Santa experiences.