Niagara Gazette


December 26, 2013

TECHNOLOGY: Couple creates program that offers personalized visit from Santa.

Niagara Gazette — When Russ Pierce settled down for a long winter’s nap last Christmas Eve, there weren’t visions of sugarplums dancing in his head.

But, he was dreaming about Santa Claus. And that dream has come to life this Christmas in way that is touching people around the world.

It all started out so simply, the way these things often do. Russ, a retired Niagara Falls water board inspector who lives in Appleton, had bought his wife, Katherine, a computer tablet for Christmas last year. Before he wrapped it, he used it to search for a fun holiday app he could download on the tablet, as a sort of digital card.

In a twinkling, he had searched the globe and found virtually nothing. Disappointed, he went to bed, but in his sleep that Christmas Eve, the Santa Claus app made its first appearance in his dreams. Christmas morning, after the tablet was unwrapped and appreciated, he told his wife about the app he had dreamed of.

“She thought it was a really cool idea,” he said.

Both Katherine, a nurse practitioner for two internists in Lewiston, and her husband Russ, have rather fond memories of Christmases past. Raising their blended family, they didn’t always have a lot of money so each of their four sons would get one big gift, hidden away in the house, with clues tucked in their stockings. The boys would spend more time looking for presents than opening them, but everyone seemed to enjoy the hunt.

Because of those happy memories, Katherine was captivated by her husband’s dream of an app that could be personalized with photos of a child’s home to make it appear Santa had visited and left lots of gifts.

It was Katherine who did the footwork to bring the app to market. She found a company in Clarence to animate their Santa program. The result was a product that they say is easy to use and yet kind of magical.

“The finished product is an app exactly the way I envisioned it,” Russ said. “You would see your house. You would see Santa come out of the sky in a bright flash and hoover around your house, and then Santa would reappear by your Christmas tree.”

In the video, Santa also leaves gifts and eats cookies in the child’s home, as well as scribbling a personalized note that parents or grandparents can print and give to the children.  After downloading the app to a mobile device, users simply follow the guidelines to create the video. They are asked to take one picture of the outside of their home, one picture of the room where the Christmas tree stands with gifts already under it, and one last picture of the room where Santa’s milk and cookies rest. Then they will be asked to enter the names of the children receiving the gifts as a means of personalizing the letter from Santa. The finished video can be shared through Facebook, YouTube or email.

Mark Didas, president of Wavespawn in Clarence, said the Santa app was “one of the most exciting projects we’ve worked on.”  

Didas said he takes pride in the design, which assembles the many pieces required for an app to stream easily on all kinds of phones and computers in a simple way.

“I think I’m most proud and pleased that we were able to do that,” he said.

The Pierces are pretty proud as well.

“We wanted something that would bring delight to the grandparents as well as the parents. We thought this would be perfect,” Kathleen said.

Called “Santa Visits Our House 2013,” the app is available for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, and sells for $1.99 on iTunes and Google play. Although it just went on sale in November, it has already been purchased by users from the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Russia and Ireland.  

If things continue to go well, the Pierces plan to create versions featuring the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

But, in the meantime, they plan to let the guy in the red suit do all the heavy lifting. Because Russ already has his best Christmas present ever. Bringing his app to life, he said, “is my wife’s way of making my Christmas dreams come true.”

Santa App

• WHAT: “Santa Visits My House 2013,” a cell phone and computer application that can be personalized for children.

• WHERE: The app costs $1.99 and can be purchased at or on Google Games.

• CONTACT: For more information visit


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • SUN LIFE Celebration Show 2 042014.jpg 'A really good feeling'

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Natural Health: B-12 may be the cure to many ailments Are you suffering from lack of energy, brain fog, poor memory, light-headedness, or ringing in your ears? Do you have pale skin, sore/tingling tongue, hands or feet, bleeding gums, or a mysterious cough? If you say yes to any of the above, you may be suffering from a B-12 deficiency.

    April 23, 2014

  • NIA Tom T mug TOM'S CORNER: Bringing your own parts to repair shop is a bad idea The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom's Corner will appear in Thursday's editions.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE NCAP 6.jpg PROBLEMS SOLVED: The Niagara Community Action program celebrates 50 years of fixing lives. Susan Quirk never thought she'd need the help. Then one day the avid distance runner was hit by a car. Her life was turned upside down. Her neck was broken and her spine was badly damaged. Formerly a successful hotel and restaurant executive, she was unable to work.

    April 23, 2014 6 Photos

  • NIA Riv Marquee art 042314 Historic Riviera Theatre marquee now in place The face of the Riviera Theatre and Performing Arts Center, the long-awaited and newly-refurbished marquee, was lifted in place Tuesday along Webster Street after an extensive project to modernize the vintage structure.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • NIA Biz Column art 1 042114 Firehouse Subs sets its grand opening for May 3 Two sisters opened a Firehouse Subs franchise in the Town of Niagara in December because they appreciated that the franchise was designed to help local firemen and the communities they serve.

    April 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • NIA UB diabetic art 041914 UB's D-Link helps teens deal with diabetes Adolescence is stressful enough, but going through it with a chronic disease that requires multiple daily injections and finger pricks, as well as a fair amount of mental math, is asking a lot of the average teen.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • SUN LIFE 140330 Kidney Soldier 5.jpg Vet wins 'life lottery' with new kidney On a recent weekday afternoon two Niagara Falls brothers were picked up by a private limo and taken to a nearby airport runway where a private plane was waiting to whisk them away to Pittsburgh.

    April 14, 2014 4 Photos

  • SUN LIFE POUND 1 040614.jpg Rock n' roll fitness

    April 12, 2014 3 Photos

  • SUN LIFE Farms 1 040614.jpg NIAGARA COUNTY: Effort to get fresh food to the needy is energized by new venture.

    Tom Tower thinks it's a crime to throw away good food. The gentleman farmer from Youngstown is noted for his passion for agricultural craftsmanship, so seeing his carefully grown produce lying wasted in the field causes him great distress. He was one of the first farmers in the region to bring his apples by the truckload to the Western New York Food Bank. It was pure logic and generosity that prompted him to do so, but when the food bank received some state money to buy fresh produce, Tower and Justin Guerin, food bank director, worked out a deal. One month would be a donation, the next month, the bank would pay a fair price for the apples.

    April 12, 2014 4 Photos

Featured Ads
House Ads
AP Video
House Ads
Night & Day
Twitter News
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Front page