A FESTIVE fund-raising pensioner is preparing to enchant youngsters for the 15th year running when he transforms himself into Father Christmas.
Hartlepool man Jimmy Croll has raised thousands of pounds for charity since 1999 with the unique and magical fundraiser, which sees him dress as Santa and visit kids throughout Hartlepool and further afield.
His charitable enterprise, which has raised thousands of pounds over the years, saw him nominated for a Fundraiser of the Year Award in the Mail’s first ever Pride of Hartlepool Awards in 2011.
Jimmy initially started the charity Santa drive to raise funds for the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, which cared for his son Michael, a Dyke House School pupil, all of his life after he was born with five heart defects.
He underwent a heart operation at the age of six weeks, open heart surgery at two and nine artery enlargements.
Jimmy – who lives with Michael’s mum Mandy, 37, and their two other sons, James, 16, and David, 14 – has raised funds for various causes.
Now aged 69, Jimmy, who also suffers with a number of health complaints, is still as enthusiastic about his Santa scheme as ever and this year wants to raise money for the Belle Vue Youth Club.
But he says next year he may have to cut back on the number of visits he makes due to his age and fitness.
Friendly Jimmy laughed and said: “I’m almost as old as the original Santa! I’ve been doing it for 15 years now and every year this suit seems to get that bit heavier for me.
“But it makes Christmas for me, I really thoroughly enjoy it.
“I’ve had my own bairns and you know what it’s like at Christmas time with your own kids, it’s just magic.
“Now mine are all up though I get a similar pleasure from seeing the faces of other people’s kids.
“It’s just lovely.
“It’s a nice feeling.”
He added: “I talk to them and play them along and I sometimes get told secrets about their parents which is funny!
“I like to spend a bit of time with them as well and find out what they’ve been up to, it really adds to the experience for them.”