The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 1, 2013

Stealing smiles: Woman turns into Grinch to spread Christmas cheer

JOHNSTOWN — Helen Csikos might like dressing up like the Grinch, but she’s anything but mean.

The Johnstown woman said she got the idea to wear the costume because her husband, Johnny, is a huge fan of the fictional Dr. Seuss character and she wanted to surprise him.

“I went online and thought it looked neat so I ordered it,” Csikos, 57, said.

But when the costume arrived, Csikos wasn’t thrilled with it. It only had the suit, hands and rubber face mask, so she decided to make some alterations.

“The hands were horrible, so I went out to look for green material and something furry,” she said. “The last place I looked was Wal-Mart in Richland and they had a green blanket, so I bought two.”

Right before Christmas, Csikos got to work on the costume in her sewing room. She figured out how to make the arms and legs and because she felt the mask needed some work, she sewed on green eyebrows and hair. Christmas stockings doubled as the boots for the costume.

When she was finished she sneaked out of the house in full costume, rang the doorbell and waited for her husband to answer.

“I got him good. He said he should have known I would do something like this,” Csikos said.

Now that she had the costume, Csikos wanted to do something with it, so she contacted her pastor at Summit Chapel United Methodist Church to see if she could come in costume for a children’s program.

After receiving permission, she attended a service and walked up the center aisle, greeted the children and handed out candy canes.

“The kids got a real kick out of it. They could not get over it and were really surprised,” Csikos said.

Csikos said she has a friend whose mother is at LaurelWood Care Center who also is a Grinch fan, so she decided to go there and surprise her.

“The residents and nurses all came out and wanted hugs and pictures with me,” she said. “They were laughing like crazy.”

Her friend’s mother was so tickled to see the Grinch she said it was her boyfriend and wouldn’t leave Csikos’ side during the visit.

“It really made her day,” Csikos said.

Csikos also made her way to Memorial Medical Center. She walked around the hospital with Santa, visiting children and handing out treats.

“The kids got up and were dancing. It was a lot of fun,” she said.

But the Grinch wasn’t done making rounds. Csikos went to Arbutus Park Manor to visit an aunt and once again the residents wanted to meet and shake hands with the green creature.

“I had one woman come up to me who wanted to thank me for making her Christmas so great because I had her remembering her sister and it brought back memories,” Csikos said. “She said when they were both little the Grinch came out. Her sister’s name was Mary Lou, so she would tease her and call her Mary Lou Who.”

Csikos plans to make more visits this holiday season and hopes to make appearances at The Galleria mall and community holiday parades.

But it’s not just the Grinch outfit Csikos likes to wear, she’s also one of the mascots for the radio station Froggy 95. She often can be seen at parades or radio station events dressed as the cartoon frog.

“I love it,” Csikos said. “I love seeing people laugh and making them smile.”

She admitted she never expected the type of reaction she gets while in costume. She plans to keep up her act as long as she can.

“This all comes naturally to me. I’m just a nut and like acting goofy,” Csikos said.

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