In addition to the Christmas Program for the Preschool where Terri taught, I was Santa for three events that first year, 2000. After my beard grew in white and people started seeing me as “Santa,” I have not shaved since.
After that Christmas season, we discussed whether being Santa was something that we wanted to take seriously and pursue. We decided I would need a new suit. My first suit was very modestly made of red and white faux fur with a pair of black rubber muck boots (galoshes) and a belt made out of a horse cinch strap. That second year I had five events, including sitting at the local shopping strip mall.
During one of those events at the mall, there were two boys that sat on a bench and watched me. I went over and sat down to visit with them and during our conversation I asked each of them what they wanted for Christmas. Neither of them wanted anything elaborate. One of the boys asked for a new pair of tennis shoes—not a pair of the expensive shoes named after a famous basketball player, just a regular pair of shoes. Considering the way these boys were dressed it was obvious they were not from a wealthy family. When I got home that evening, I reflected on the day, and I couldn’t get those boys off my mind. I was upset with myself that I didn’t find out more about these boys so I could make sure they got what they wanted for Christmas, especially the boy’s new pair of shoes.
That event completely changed me as “Santa,” and I was determined that mistake would not happen again. It became very apparent that the Good Lord was leading us toward children with various needs—in hospitals, foster homes, small communities, and schools that wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to visit Santa. This was the birth of “21st Century Santa.”
Since that time we have not used any of the money we raise for personal gain, and the Good Lord has provided all the blessings we have needed to serve these children.
By the fourth year, we were invited to sit in Altus’ “Christmas in the Park” five evenings a week. Our photos with Santa business was started on teh sidewalks and gazebo of the city park and proved to be a blessing in the number of families we were able to serve each Christmas.
I began to explore ways we could raise our income to finance our mission and programs. In 2006 we began publishing our brochure to spread the word about our organization and programs. We sold ads that highlighted our sponsors and supporters. It has proven to be our primary way of introducing our organization to the general public and is one of our key fundraisers.
We reached a point that we were busy every day of the Christmas Season going to events all over Oklahoma. We needed a way we could serve more children without spending so much time on the road. I discovered that in other cities, groups were having parties, inviting children to a location and volunteers would entertain them. I thought that something like this was the answer to our problem. Thus the birth of “Candy Cane Village.” In 2009, we explored the possibility of becoming a non-profit, and the next year we sold our home and relocated in the metro Oklahoma City area.
Our dream has started to become a reality in the past few years because we have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams. In 2016, we received a massive donation of the “Kingfisher in Lights” inventory of individual lighted displays along with all the associated equipment, spare parts and pieces. After careful thinking and praying we decided it was in the best interest of our organization to purchase property on which to build Candy Cane Village and set up our new light display.
In January 2017, we had the opportunity to purchase two acres of land east of Minco, OK. During 2018, we purchased 13.5 acres adjacent to our two acre tract. This property is large enough for us to build our dream Candy Cane Village with space to entertain our special friends both indoors and outdoors. We are currently working on plans for the first portion of the building that will house the Village.