SANTA Claus is coming to town as a festive fundraiser returns for the 14th consecutive year as he continues to raise Christmas charity cash.
Big-hearted Jim Croll first donned the Santa suit back in 1999 as a way of raising money to thank the “amazing” medics at the Freeman Hospital’s children’s heart unit, in Newcastle.
Jim’s son, Michael, was born with five heart defects and has since had several operations at the hospital including open heart surgery.
The father and son had both visited Lapland when Michael was young which Jim described as a “magical experience” and got him thinking about how he could make Christmas even more special for youngsters at home.
With his Santa suit on, 68-year-old Jim has since visited birthday parties, schools, nurseries and charities every single year lighting up the faces of thousands of youngsters who love the chance to meet Father Christmas.
And in doing so he has raised thousands of pounds for a number of local charities.
It might still be early November but Jim has dusted his Santa suit down and is already taking bookings for this year.
Six visits have already been organised as well as his annual trip to Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) on Christmas Day.
And now is the chance to book Santa and help to raise cash for this year’s chosen charity, Butterwick Hospice.
Jim, who worked at British Steel for 17 years and ICI for 22 years before being retired on health grounds, said: “I know Butterwick Hospice isn’t based in Hartlepool but a heck of a lot of children from the town have used their facilities over the years and continue to do so.”
Jim, who lives in the Oxford Road area of town with his wife, Mandy, 45, “loves” this time of year. And he says regardless of how much he raises he enjoys making the youngsters happy and seeing their faces light up as Santa strolls in.
Asked if he has a target for how much he wants to raise this year, Jim said: “I couldn’t say.
“Last year was one of my poorest years so far, I got about £365.
“But one year I raised about £1,500. Obviously I will do all I can to raise as much as we can and I welcome every booking.
“I recommend a minimum donation of around £20, if they are willing to donate more then that’s even better but I would never kick anybody in to touch and say I wouldn’t go along.”
Jim, who has been CRB checked through his role as a school governor and in other youth work, is being backed by the manager of the Greensides pub, in Stockton Road, Darren Corbett, who has organised a children’s Christmas party on Saturday, December 14 which will be supporting Butterwick Hospice.
Santa can be booked for Christmas parties or to go along to schools or nurseries. He can also visit kids at home.
To book Santa call Jim on (01429) 869231.