Steven Davies perched on Santa's knee and smiled big for the camera.
At 43 years old, Davies wasn't the typical tiny tot whispering his wish list into the ear of Santa Claus this Christmas season, but he wasn't worried that his status as a grownup disqualified him from some lap time.
"I don't think you're ever too old. Age is not important," said Davies, in the sociology program at the University of Montana.
Last week, the UM Gerontology Society hosted its annual "Photos with Santa" fundraiser in the University Center, anticipated to bring in $300 to $400 to benefit care for people with Alzheimer's and dementia. Jacob Hixson of Hixson Studio donated the photography.
For just $5, the time people spent on Santa's lap also served to bring back the magic of the holidays and memories of the night the man in the big red suit would deliver wrapped presents under the tree and munch on treats.
"It was always hard to sleep the night before," said Sherrill Brown, who works on campus and brought her cairn terrier, Milo, for a picture.
Coincidentally, Santa and her dad liked the very same type of cookie, peanut butter with the crisscrosses on top. She recalls the way Santa would empty the plate.
"We were only allowed to make Dad's favorite cookies," Brown said.
Edward Morrissey, who works in the art department, also sat in Santa's lap, spiffy in his usual work attire: a suit jacket, tie with tie clip and trousers. Morrissey, 40, has been sending his mom his picture with Santa the last few years, and she displays at least part of one in her vacation home.
"She had cut Santa out of it, so it was me with this white glove on my shoulder," Morrissey said.
His family doesn't disrespect Santa, though. In fact, he'd even leave carrots for the reindeer when he was a youngster. He believes his mom finds the photos silly and unexpected, but regardless, she's in for another surprise delivery this year.
"Now, it's become a tradition, but I don't know if she finds them as amusing as I do," Morrissey said.
Ryland, 9 months old, met Santa for the first time this year, and the introduction didn't go flawlessly. Dez Fox, his mom, believes her little boy will be excited to see Santa next time around, as she was before she caught her parents red-handed, putting out the gifts.
This time around, the man bellowing out the holiday "Ho, ho, hos!" didn't completely win over Ryland.
"He was a little skeptical," Fox said.
Mr. Claus himself may have been skeptical of another set of visitors.
To get into the holiday spirit, a group of festive students descended on Santa wearing tree branches, lights, crowns and wrapping paper, a tradition in MaryAnn Bonjorni's art class. One of the fearless leaders unfurled a painted banner in front of the students, finding relief before finals.
On display was a racy version of the magic of the season, the silhouette of an elk, or maybe reindeer, mounted atop another.
"It captures the holiday cheer," said Jack Metcalf, who teaches art.
Of course, the donations the UM Gerontology Society planned to make to the Missoula Music and Memory Project did so nicely, as well.