Santa America will be highlighting the incredible volunteers who deliver Love, Hope and Joy throughout the year!
Santa Bill French (and his Christmas Carol)
Q: Santa Bill, tell us what brought you to Santa America?
The first I heard of Santa America was in about 2006 when our small group, the Lone Star Santas, were in the formation stages. We were trying to build one of the best Santa organizations in the country. I was immediately drawn to Santa America as it embodied all the shining principles I have embraced being Santa. I took an eye opening 35 hour course with the Houston Hospice group in Houston and got certified to work for them and for Santa American at virtually the same time.
Q: Can you tell us about a memorable experience being Santa?
A marvelous man, who I highly respected, was dying from stage four pancreatic cancer. He had the most wonderful outlook on life. We he began his final decline several of our Lone Star Santas would help drive him and his wife to the many medical appointments they were both going. He was in and out of Houston Hospice several times before his eventual death. But not before our group threw him a great eatin’ meetin’ that he and his family truly loved.
Q: Please tell us more about being Santa!
Ok, let me share with you what I consider to be a defining moment. About half way through my Santa career, I was invited to appear at a summer celebration of Christmas in July at the Shriner’s Burn Center in Galveston, Texas. Initially, I refused to do it. I was thinking I did not have the emotional defenses to deal with the injured children. My wife was an RN for more than 40 years and had worked at a burn center in a NYC hospital. She prepared me for the event and I ended up agreeing to attend.
Summertime in Texas is HOT! In Santa comes...I was fully dressed in my full regalia, opened the door, and was blown away by what I saw. Yes, these children were horribly mangled because of their encounter with fires. But, what I honestly saw was the gleam in their eyes as I entered the room. I will never forget it. It changed my Santa portrayals thereafter. I realized I had real power to provide happiness to others in situations of unfathomable pain and suffering. All my encounters thereafter have contained a great component of faith and love. I am grateful I have been given a gift where I can do something really important and I have enjoyed being Santa for nearly 30 years.
Q: You talked about how it requires emotional strength. Have your visits always worked out?
Santa John Scheuch contacted me to deliver a book and a Santa hug to a baby who was not expected to live. Her parents had the idea of creating a website asking viewers to create a bucket list. The list included a visit from Santa. Sadly, she died before I could get there. I regret never having the pleasure to deliver her the Santa America "presents"including "An Angel in the Sky" by Sheila Booth Alberstadt. It's a wonderful book that I am sure gives a great deal of comfort to grieving parents.
Q: Anything else to share?
We will soon be moving to Jacksonville, Florida to be closer to my oldest daughter and family. We hope to buy our final home and continue to be Santa for a long time. I am already a member of the Palm Tree Santas, (the Florida Sandies), and look forward to finding a hospice in the JAX area. I want to find a place to help contribute whatever God permits me to help all those who really want and need to believe in the Spirit of Christmas – which I am eternally thankful to have embodied, and hope to continue to provide, peace, joy, love and hugs, especially to children…of all ages.
Santa Bill French, website: www.MyOwnSanta.com
Photo Credit of Santa Bill in snow from the Balcones Videography, Austin, Texas