Christmas is Reg Howard’s favourite time of year. It’s when he becomes a full-time helper for Santa Claus.

Children and adults alike will find him at the Kozlov Shopping Centre throughout December, a post he has held for more than 20 years. Mrs. Claus stops by to help him out on the weekends.

Howard will also be making an appearance this year at a Breakfast with Santa event at the Lion’s Gate Banquet Hall, 386 Blake St., from 9-11 a.m. on Dec. 9. It’s fundraiser for the Barrie club. Advance tickets are available at 705-881-6384.

“I’ve always been a Christmas person,” he said. “I look forward to it all year.”

Back in the early 1990s, Howard was visiting his mother in a Toronto nursing home around Christmas time. She was very excited about a visit from Santa Claus. That led to him to borrow a Santa suit and hand out Christmas cake at the Barrie IOOF home. It was in conjunction with a bingo the Civitan Club was holding at the home. He had so much fun and really enjoyed the response by the seniors living at the home, since then, he’s played Santa for all kinds of occasions, from birthday parties to corporate events from Barrie to Toronto.

Several years ago, he wrote a book about his experiences. On Santa’s Knee, the stories of Santa Claus as told to Reg Howard is not a children’s book, although it does contain some stories of children, what they say to Santa, as well as some of their letters.

“It’s entertaining (and) brings us back to believing in Santa Claus,” said Howard. “I get people who bought it (and then) called me. They cried, they laughed. There’s emotional stuff in the book.”

He always enjoys talking to the kids, finding out what they want for Christmas. Some have a whole long list of items whereas others will ask for a pogo stick or a bottle of pickles or a job for a parent. Every child who visits at the mall receives a little activity colouring book. He answers letters too, emailing a card for Christmas and the child’s birthday, all from Santa. He will also reply to letters from adults: many who write are going through a tough time.

“I love it,” he said. “If I can make someone’s Christmas that much better, an experience for parents and kids, my job is done. I want to keep the magic of Christmas alive.”

Howard can remember visiting Santa as a child and he took his children each year when they were young. His children are grown now, one lives in Toronto, the other in Barrie, and he has three grandchildren. The story of his grandson’s visit to Santa is one of many in the book, which is available at the mall.

When Howard isn’t helping Santa, he runs a pest control business in Barrie. Born in Toronto, he was transferred here, by another company, in 1974 and stayed to open his own business.

For personal appearances, parties and events call Santa’s booking agent, a.k.a. Reg Howard at 705-718-HOHO (4646).

Photo: Visit Santa at Kozlov Shopping Centre throughout the month of December or have breakfast with Santa from 9-11 a.m. on Dec. 9 at the Lion’s Gate Banquet Hall.


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