Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, you may have been reminded of Christmas in them all when you seen this Santa and his wife making appearances at local events throughout Washington County.
Rex Ray, also known as the Sand Hills Santa has been working in the local community for over five years now but his work as Santa started seven years ago.
“Seven years ago I was requested by my church, St. Joseph the Worker, to be the kneeling Santa,” said Ray. “That’s the image of Santa kneeling to the baby Jesus in recognition that He’s the reason for the season. That’s what got me started doing charitable events as Santa.”
Not long after doing charitable events he began to open himself up to be available for events and parties to help pay for his charitable endeavors.
“We try to get involved in the community’s events,” he said. “We’ve been the Santa for Northwest Florida Community Hospital for four years and we participate in Relay for Life. We’ve also done the Breakfast with Santa for the Chipley Kiwanis Club and for the Guardian Ad Litem in Washington County.”
He’s been the Santa for the Guardian Ad Litem in Washington County for two years and each year the Santa has been able to bring with them two truckloads of toys for the children, he said.
“I belong to a national organization known as Santa America, which is a group of professional Santas who volunteer their time to visit children and families in crisis,” said Ray. “Santa Claus visits these children twelve months out of the year to hopefully bring them hope, peace and joy while they’re at home, the hospital or even hospice.”
He explained that to be a Santa you don’t have to be a professional, but it helps.
“I’ve been to Santa School and have to have a background check done on a regular basis,” he said. “This helps with peace of mind to those who have me coming around children and I’ve got over $3 million in liability insurance to add to that peace of mind.”
Ray said he was excited because this organization of over 400 Santas were going global.
“We’ve been getting more and more support from so many people,” he said. “For Washington County alone I’ve got over 1,000 toys to sort through to prepare for children. These are all donated by local people in Holmes, Washington and Bay Counties and wouldn’t have been possible without their generosity.”
To find out more on Santa America visit their official website at www.santa-america.org.
He also belongs to a group of “real-bearded” Santas called the Palm Tree Santas.
“We’ve started a Santa Drill Team to support our troops,” he said. “We dress in red and white camouflage and perform drill routines, teach the importance of the pledge of allegiance, the War of 1812, the significance of our flag and to honor our veterans. We’re available upon request and only ask for donations for travel expenses.”
For more information on the Palm Tree Santas you can visit their official website at www.palmtreesantas.com.
An unlikely source of support, he said, is a local pageant called Ms. Heart of the USA.
“It’s teaching these young women that to be truly beautiful is to be charitable,” he said. “Their entry fee is usually donated items, such as nonperishable food items or toys when they’re raising for Toys for Tots.”
50 to 60 percent of his appearances are charitable and Mrs. Claus makes all of his outfits, he said.
What keeps him motivated with a strong drive to continue in this line of charitable works, he said, is quite simple.
“I we could maintain the charitable nature that comes with the Christmas season, that overwhelming sense to spread love, peace, joy and happiness, 365 days out of the year then we wouldn’t have near as many of the problems we have today,” said Ray. “My sincere wish is for that to happen.”
To find out more information on Ray as the Sand Hills Santa, visit his official website at www.sandhillssantas.com.