The Christmas season is soon upon us once again, inspiring thoughts of presents, beautifully lit trees and the magic of Santa. Pierce County is home to many Santas, but long-time Santa Ron Kearns tells many special stories from his years as a Santa.
Ron is retired from the Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division. Ron and his eighth grade sweetheart, Marci (also known as Mrs. Claus), have two children, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Ron was a pastor for 53 years, retiring in 2010. During his time as a pastor, he started up as a Santa in Steilacoom. After visiting a national Santa convention, he and a co-founder decided to start the group called NORPAC Santas. This group of Santas, Mrs. Clauses and elves work throughout the year to spread cheer to families and – most importantly – children.
The NORPAC Santas consist of 85 real-bearded Santas. All are FBI background checked and work diligently throughout the year to keep up the magical image of the great bearded man we all know and love. The first weekend of each November, the Santas, Mrs. Clauses and elves congregate at Great Wolf Lodge to participate in merry activities. These activities include haircare, costuming, storytelling and hand magic. Santa Ron explains, “I would never go to do something that [children] would not equate Santa doing.”
He is always in character so as to not spoil to image of Santa – any time of year. All throughout the year, children stop Ron and ask if he’s Santa. He, of course, says, “Yes, yes, I am.”
Since 2002, Ron Kearns works to spread the magic of Christmas. From local military events to work at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, there is never a lack of that special magic associated with the season. Ron was asked to be a Santa while working as a chaplin for the Steilacoom police department. From the moment he was asked, he started growing out his hair and embracing the idea of Santa fully. From there, he began participating in military events like the giving of Christmas trees, being Santa for business and battalion parties, and even taking pictures with pets.
Ron tells a story of his first Christmas at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. The first room he visited as Santa was home to a young, sad girl. She wouldn’t talk to the nurses or doctors and would hardly even talk to her parents. When Santa Ron offered her an Elf on the Shelf, the little girl explained how she already had one, but that it was home with her siblings. Because it was at home and not in her hospital room, she was afraid Santa wouldn’t know where to find her on Christmas Eve. Santa smiled and said, “You know, you don’t have to worry. Santa is always going to know where you’re at. In fact, I have a special gift for you.” Ron gifted her an elf for her hospital room. Immediately, she lit up like a Christmas tree.
Ron tells of another Christmas with a military family at Great Wolf Lodge. A young boy was at the lodge and had time to visit with Santa. The boy explained how all he wanted was his father home for Christmas. Santa Ron smiled, looked down at the boy and explained how he could hope with him, he could even pray with him, but Santa unfortunately couldn’t do everything. However, the lodge staff let Ron know that the boy’s father would indeed be coming home and Santa Ron was asked to make an appearance the next day for a special, surprise gift to the boy. Santa got on stage the next night and called that same boy up on stage. He sat the boy on his lap and said, “Now what was it you asked me for this Christmas?” The boy began to reply, but before he could get two words out, his father came running onto the stage to embrace his son in his arms. The two rejoiced together, holding each other, so grateful to finally be together at Christmas.
There is something special about stories of Christmas, something enchanting that can only be defined as the magic of the season. What is unique about these stories is that it wasn’t the purchased gifts that made all the difference. It was the love, the pure joy of family and togetherness, and the idea of the magic of Santa that filled the children’s hearts with joy.
“Christmas is a matter of the heart,” Ron says. “Christmas is something that’s inside. It’s not a day, it’s an experience of time and joy always and it’s important to spread that on.”
If someone were to ask Santa what he wants for Christmas, he’d tell you to love, to cherish and to spend time with one another.