To thousands of American Indian children, Lewis Trujillo is the real Santa Claus.

For the past decade, he has tried to make life better on reservations across the West by delivering tons of food, clothing and school books.His goal this Christmas is to provide one toy and a package of candy each for 20,000 tribal children.

"I'm Indian myself and I've always had the feeling that nothing was going to change unless we had the same foundation as others," he said. And to Trujillo this time of year, that means the same chance at Christmas as any other child.

It's an ironic calling for the 65-year-old part-Ute Indian who in the early 1970s was forced to retire from his job as a refrigerator repairman because of a disability. Doctors told him he had a bad heart.

A television documentary on Indian children who spent winters without coats inspired him to buy up surplus clothing from the Salvation Army and donate it to reservations.

His work evolved in 1986 into Night Walker Enterprises, an organization with a Ute name dedicated to providing reservations with "everything that makes a home."

Since then, he and hundreds of volunteers have distributed 4 1/2 million pounds of clothing, a half million pounds of school books and tons of food to 25 reservations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Trujillo made news twice last year: first for winning an America's Award, which honors people who personify the American character and spirit; and again at Christmas after fire destroyed two trailers containing 30,000 pounds of donated clothing.

Donations poured in from all 50 states and as far away as Iceland, and the Coors Brewing Co. replaced one of the trailers.

Now dealing with another Christmas, Trujillo is again scrambling to meet his goal. "We have enough candy, but we still need about 5,300 toys," he said.

After struggling himself on Social Security payments after retiring, he has come to understand the despair of reservations, where unemployment is high and income low.

Last week, volunteers took toys, candy and food to Navajo chapters in Arizona and New Mexico and a Ute tribe in Colorado. This week, they were in South Dakota and Wyoming.

Trujillo's rewards are often measured in the looks on children's faces.

One 5-year-old boy had trouble trying to pick out a bicycle from the more than 100 that Night Walker donated to the 1,700-member Sioux tribe of the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota.

"Each of the bikes that he tried were just too big for him," Crow Creek representative Durine Chase wrote to Trujillo. "But he wanted one so bad, he didn't give up. He finally chose a girl's bike."

"He was smiling ear to ear, riding all over. . . . He did not want to let his bike out of his sight."

Tax-deductible contributions to the Night Walker Enterprises can be sent to 144 N. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80524. For more information, call (970) 482-7797.