Sometimes you just need someone to talk to.
Al Paterson knows it better than most – he’s that special someone for kids from one to 92.
Affectionately known as “Santa Al” by fans across the Capital Region, he hears about all kinds of hopes and dreams at this time of year.
“Santa’s someone who kids – and adults – feel comfortable opening up to,” he says. “Who’s a nice, safe person? Santa.”
He’s been listening to Christmas wishes since 1996 when he first “became” a Santa. After his wife, Sharon, died in 2009, he started donating proceeds from his Santa appearances at malls, the airport, and private functions to Victoria Hospice.
“The people at hospice were absolutely phenomenal. That’s the only way I can put it. They were so good to Sharon and to me, and I thought, ‘how am I going to pay them back?’”
He’s raised more than $70,000 for compassionate end-of-life care since then.
Children ask for the kind of things you might expect during a visit to Santa, but sometimes wishes are harder to fulfill, Al says.
“A child might ask for Grandma to come for Christmas, but I know from signals the parents give me that Grandma has passed away,” he says. “Sometimes the idea of Father Time or Mother Nature helps me explain. But sometimes I simply say, ‘this is just this is the way it is, I’m sorry’. It depends on the child. You get a feeling for it instantly.”
Sometimes elderly people like to visit Santa and reminisce about when they were young. Other times, strapping young fellows stop by.
“These two young men kept walking around and around. They had to be 6’2” and they had arms as big as my leg. The next thing I know, they’re in line with the kids. ‘Okay guys, what’s the story?’ I said. They sheepishly replied, ‘Mum said we had to get our picture taken.’”
Whether young or old, there’s one thing makes a Santa visit so special.
“It’s magic,” says Al.
You can welcome Santa when he comes to town on Sunday, Dec. 4 from 1-4 pm at Tillicum Centre or tell him your hopes and dreams by appointment throughout the month of December.