A SANTA Claus lookalike who has proudly groomed his beard for 42 years has had his whiskers shaved off to help a battling youngster.
Two-year-old Adam Butterfield suffers from Emanuel Syndrome, a chromosome abnormality which has already seen him rushed into hospital up to 12 times a year in his short life.
Adam’s former neighbour, Arthur Snowdon, has joined a campaign to raise money to help make life easier for the youngster.
Arthur – who has often been mistaken for St Nick due to his snowy-white locks and beard – took the big decision to have the trademark beard he first grew in 1969 shaved off.
The 62-year-old, who spent 24 years working on Hartlepool’s Corporation and Stagecoach buses before taking early retirement four years ago, hopes to have raked in at least £600 for Adam, who lives with his parents Nicola McAllister, 35, and dad John Butterfield, 39, in Gloucester Place, Peterlee.
Nicola and Barclay’s bank worker John were told their son could suffer from heart seizures, kidney failure, asphyxiation, severe mental health problems and an inability to walk or talk.
Arthur, formerly of Hartlepool’s Headland, said: “When I worked on the buses they called me Santa Claus.
“I do feel like Santa Claus for Adam – I’m really over the moon to have raised this money for him.
“He is a brilliant little lad and I have known him since he was born.
“It was all worth it for a bairn like that.”
Arthur, of Brecon Close, Peterlee, revealed he has more in common with Adam than meets the eye as he suffered from polio has a youngster and could not walk until he was aged around six.
Selfless Arthur, who still sometimes walks with a stick, said: “There’s nothing wrong with me compared to that little bairn.”
He added that he was due to appear as Santa Claus at a care home in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool, but may now have to don a false beard.
Arthur, who has lived in Peterlee for 29 years since meeting his wife, Maureen, 58, added: “I want to grow it back now, the wife doesn’t like it.”
The grandfather-of-seven, who is dad to Darren Snowdon, 41, from Throston in Hartlepool, and stepdad to Emma Knowles, 30, Scott Knowles, 32, and Lee Knowles, 36, said he started out with a “Jason King” handlebar moustache when he was about 18.
Arthur, whose mum Ethel Snowdon, 84, lives in the West View area of Hartlepool, said his beard went on from there as “he just couldn’t be bothered to shave”.
It began to turn white when he was in his early 30s.
Nicola and John lived next door to Arthur and Maureen before the couple had to move to accommodate Adam’s condition.
The money raise will go towards a lift that will run from the ground floor to Adam’s bedroom.
Former Stockton Borough Council worker Nicola said: “I can’t really put into words how thankful we are.
“I think Arthur has done an amazing thing for our Adam and to shave off a beard he has had for 42 years takes a lot of courage.”
Anyone who would like to sponsor Arthur can contact him on 07983201659.