There are a lot of things to love about Christmas, but one of the best is the gift of giving, “Christmas is the spirit of giving. And what we try to do is give ourselves. It is the little things that mean a lot. You don’t have to win the lottery before you can give back,” said Randy Smith.
Randy and Sandy Smith, alias Santa and Mrs. Claus, have been delighting children and their families for years – Randy for 45 years and Sandy for 30 years. They visit homes on Christmas Eve; have been in several retail businesses over the years; and participate in comunity events, like the Great Bend Christmas Parade.
The Smiths have never charged for their alias appearances, but instead, take donations and give the money to an organization, charity or to a family in need. This year donations will go to Dustin and Briana White. One of the family’s three children, ten-year-old Kadin, was recently diagnosed with leukemia. The Smiths believe in diversity, and have a special place in their hearts for those with special needs.
Sandy has worked at Rosewood Gallery with special need adults for 14 years. Randy, who teaches criminal justice classes at Barton Community College, became attached to Kadin, while his mother was taking nursing classes. She would bring Kadin, who has special needs, along with her to the college. Randy made Kadin a “special deputy”. When the Smith’s learned that Kadin’s mother had to quit classes because her son was diagnosed with Leukemia, they decided to give this year’s donations to the Whites to help with medical expenses.
Both Santa and Mrs. Claus agree they always think they have heard it all when the children take to Santa’s lap. But they are continually surprised. “It is amazing to listen to these kids, especially the handicapped kids. They amaze me more than anything. They don’t want much,” said Randy, “They maybe want a CD. They want peace on earth or to be with their family.”
The Smiths grew up here, and portraying honored visitors from the North Pole for the community has given the couple lots of special Christmas memories. “You can’t believe the feeling. You are giving, eyes brighten. It is watching the families and the kids’ smiles. The greatest gift of all is love and a hug,” said Randy.
“You can have somebody that is down and out, and you want to make them smile,” added Randy.
Smith has been in law enforcement for 44 years; 26 years with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. That has brought a lot of harsh reality, including over 250 homicides, and working undercover for 15 years. Being Santa is a “stress reliever” said Randy. It is a welcome experience “to see the other side” of life. And, they both love the kids, added Sandy.
Randy and Sandy are now in their second generation of families as being Santa and Mrs. Claus. People start calling in the spring to reserve a slot on the schedule. They may have a couple of new openings a year.
“We start when it gets dark on Christmas Eve and we go to 11 at night,” said Sandy. “We went to Pawnee Rock in a blizzard one year,” said Randy. “They met us at the side of the road and we followed them across the field because they road was already covered. They had a 4x4 and we followed them in.”
“I thought Santa was going to have to spend the night,” added Sandy, who rides along and is in charge of Santa’s and the reindeer’s treats.
“We get carrots at every house on Christmas Eve,” explained Sandy. And what about the chocolate chip cookies that Santa so loves? Well, Santa can’t eat them because of his beard, so Sandy and other family members help with eating the treats. Santa can manage a straw in a soft drink however. And, Santa does get time on Christmas Eve for a short break.
“It is so much fun to pull into Sonic and order something to drink and those kids just go nuts,” said Randy with a grin.
The Smith’s granddaughters Kenda and Kaycee have been recruited to help out as elves in this family tradition. Their younger sisters Madison, Mckayla and great-granddaughter Ava are too young, but surely a slot will open when they become of age to participate in the merriment.
The family tradition of Santa started with Randy’s Uncle Ray. Randy never went to any Santa schools, but instead learned from example. “I probably had the best teacher…Uncle Ray,” he said, eyes tearing. “He would play Santa for our son David. I believed in Santa Claus until I was 34.”
And so the tradition continues. Whether by combine, fire-truck, carriage or sleigh, be on the look-out for Randy and Sandy Smith, alias Santa and Mrs. Claus. With eyes that twinkle they continue making the holidays merrier for others, their family and themselves.