It all started when my grade 11 high school English teacher asked if I could be Santa for the Christmas dance. Without hesitation, the answer was yes. Deep down, I think I always wanted to be Santa. The joy he brings to families, and specifically children, has always warmed my heart.
When I joined Innisfail Kinsmen a little more than 4 years ago, I’d heard numerous stories about how much money they used to make with their Santa and Elves fundraiser. Sadly, after spending years doing it, the project had been mothballed, despite the success. The suit had been shoved into a closet and life member Craig McEarchern was retired of his duties as the Innisfail Kinsmen Santa. That’s where I come in. My first year, I jumped at the chance to bring the suit out of retirement. It was for a single event, our Kin Kids Christmas Party. But after seeing my own children’s eyes light up as I came out in the Santa outfit, I was hooked.
The next year, when the food bank asked us to come out to the CP Holiday Train, I couldn’t resist nominating myself as Santa, while two other Kinsmen stepped up as elves. We did a couple more small events that year, as both elves and Santa, and it instilled in me the love of the opportunity I was presented with.
By the end of the second year, Kin was looking for a new way to achieve its fundraising goals. I suggested the only thing on my mind: Santa! That’s when we began planning our first ever Innisfail’s Breakfast with Santa. That very same summer, I decided to stop trimming my beard, and let it grow. By November, I had an authentic beard, to go along with the rest of the costume.
In 2015, we did a dozen or more gigs around Central Alberta as Santa and the Elves, including the first annual Breakfast with Santa. The club was even recognized for their efforts by receiving a Bill Skelly Award.
The 2016 / 2017 year marks the start of the fourth consecutive year with Kin, but I’ve moved from the Innisfail Kinsmen to Red Deer Kinsmen. And yes, my alter Santa ego has come with me. The beard is a little longer, but will be just as white. But there’s more. This year, with the help of my wife Debbie, and an excellent local seamstress, we’ve built the ultimate Santa suit.
By joining Red Deer, the club has allowed to me to run with my ideas, and there are many new and exciting possibilities for Santa and I. Not only do I intend to help the club make a few extra dollars, but I plan to simply give back to the community of Red Deer. With the current economic environment, not everyone in Alberta can afford to hit the mall and get a picture with Santa. So, we have approached a couple of the family based shelters and outreach facilities and plan on supplying them with a Santa, a photographer, and a picture to help them keep the Christmas spirit alive when they need it most. This, to me, is the most important part of being both Santa and a Kinsmen—giving back to the people who truly need it.
We’ll also be taking bookings for Christmas parties, Kin kids Christmas parties, and my personal favourite, the Red Deer Festival of Trees Breakfast with Santa, which is sponsored by the Red Deer Kinsmen Club. The Christmas season is shaping up to be a busy one for Santa, but this Santa is definitely up to the task.
I love making kids happy and I enjoy my time with my Kinsmen family. Bringing the two together has been a blast, and I hope to continue doing it for many years to come. Perhaps one day, I won’t even have to dye my beard white (It can be a little harsh on the face).
If your club has someone interested in being Santa, I would suggest purchasing a suit and beard, and doing a club fundraiser! You can be as busy as you want to be in November and December, and the feeling you get from doing it is better than anything else in the world.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
Lee “Santa” Kemp