Santa has valuable helpers in Sanford

Dec. 22, 2012 @ 04:23 PM

Santa Claus may be able to travel to every home delivering presents in a single night, but when it comes to his many photo appearances — he needs a little help.

During the holiday season, Santa relies on local helpers to capture his spirit and listen to children's present requests. Sanford Fire Department Capt. David Nance has worked with and portrayed Santa for nearly 25 years in Central Carolina.

"It is a lot of fun," Nance said. "You get to see the smiles on kids' faces. And it is unreal to hear what some of these kids are asking for."

There are lots of requests for animals or BB guns Nance said, but one year a little boy asked for a white Christmas.

"I'd seen the weather report and I took a gamble and told that little boy there would be a white Christmas," Nance said. "Sure enough, when I woke up Christmas Day, there was snow on the ground."

Nance portrayed Santa throughout his two daughter's lives and he said they often sat on his lap without realizing who he was.

"I eventually had to explain I was one of Santa's helpers," Nance said. "But, for a long time, they had no idea."

Full-time paramedic Tim Sellars, who has portrayed Santa for eight years, said he enjoys seeing the children's faces light up when they see Santa.

"The little kids come in and want to sit on Santa's lap to tell him what they want for Christmas," he said. "You see their eyes light up when they see you."

Sellars usually attends five or six events a year and said he spoke to one little girl who didn't believe in Santa anymore.

"They put me on the phone with her and I talked to her a little bit," he said. "She got a little quiet, but I convinced her."

David Richardson, and his wife Kathy, were Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Jackson Bros. BBQ & Produce Saturday and spoke with a stream of children.

"They are so excited," Kathy Richardson said. "They come running in and give Santa a hug."

David Richardson said he used to dress up at Santa and visit the VA Hospital in Fayetteville, where his mother was a volunteer.

"Some are disabled or bedridden," Richardson said. "It may be the first time they smile all day when Santa Claus comes in."

The couple received several letters from children, some brownies and even a little bit of money from one little girl, they said.

"It's not a lot, but to the kids it means the world," Kathy Richardson said.

One little boy came in with his sister and asked Santa to make sure his sister got her present since she was recently diagnosed with Lupus.

"It touches you," Kathy Richardson said. "It was all I could do to keep from tearing up."