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At only 7 months old, tiny Aijia does not have visions of sugar plums dancing in her curl-covered head. As she snuggles against her mother, Shirley Guerrero, at the Christmas Council's application center, she seems more concerned about mealtime.

But her sister, Chantelle, 4, will notice whether Santa Claus comes down the chimney. And that worries her mother."Because she's 4, she knows all about Christmas," Guerrero said. "I'm trying really hard to get her stuff. I need help."

Thousands of Utah children will rely on the compassion of people they don't know for holiday cheer this year. That help will range from providing virtually all Christmas presents for the neediest children, who are registered in the Sub for Santa program, to providing an item or two through Toys for Tots.

Close to 2,000 children, who have qualified for the Sub for Santa program sponsored by the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune, are still waiting to be "adopted" by substitute Santas this Christmas. An equal number have already been adopted. And applications are still being taken through next week for families who need help.

The Sub for Santa program asks sponsors to adopt a family and provide a simple Christmas for the kids, including a toy or two and an outfit. Some families also need a Christmas tree. Families also appreciate receiving food to prepare on Christmas Day, although that's not required of sponsors.

Hundreds of other children are signed up for various levels of Christmas-gift assistance through the Salvation Army and the KUTV Angel Tree program and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots, which is co-sponsored by Rainbo Oil.

To adopt a family through Sub for Santa, call 237-2139.

Families who still need to apply for assistance should hurry. Applications are taken at 5686 S. Redwood Road in the Family Center next to Silo. Before applying, parents should call 968-7144 or 968-7254 to find out the hours applications are being taken and what to bring when they apply.