Real-life Santa gives Thomasville community something to believe in

Real-life Santa gives Thomasville community something to believe in
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 6:50 PM EST
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Santa Claus has officially come to town.

Jay Ridenhower ( also known as Santa) has been decking the halls for 20 years. He transforms into the legendary man for the holidays. To him, it’s his way of giving back to the community.

Jay Ridenhower prepares for four months to become Santa Claus.
Jay Ridenhower prepares for four months to become Santa Claus.(WALB)

“There are a lot of people out there hurting today. There are a lot of people out there that just don’t know about tomorrow and we have the power within us to change their life,” Ridenhower said.

Ridenhower said Santa Claus has even given back to him. He spent the last years of his mom’s life recounting memories with her dressed as Santa. His mom suffered from dementia.

“And she would tell me things about waiting for Santa and in the late 20′s when she was growing up as a little girl and all that stuff so even then people recognized who Santa was,” he said.

Children can't help but smile when they meet Santa.
Children can't help but smile when they meet Santa.(WALB)

It takes the last four months of the year for him to turn into Santa — growing his beard out and getting his outfits ready. Throughout the years, he’s visited foster homes, senior living facilities, and of course big events like Victorian Christmas in Thomasville — all free of charge with only the exchange of laughter and smiles.

“The date you’re born and the year that you die, that little dash that’s in between there, they say that’s what you did with your life, and I want mine to be more than just a dash. I want it to be that we were doing stuff for people that whole time,” Ridenhower said.

Dressing up as Santa every year is Ridenhower's way of giving back to the community.
Dressing up as Santa every year is Ridenhower's way of giving back to the community.(WALB)

He added that while Santa has evolved throughout the years, he still has the same message.

“I think Santa, his message is still the same in a time of a lot of buying and pushing and shoving. It’s all about giving. Giving and I would hope that he would continue to put that spirit of giving out into people’s hearts and understand what this season is really about,” he said.

Ridenhower receives plenty of Santa letters during his visits.
Ridenhower receives plenty of Santa letters during his visits.(WALB)

And with every letter from Santa, hug and spirit of giving, it just goes to show as long as you believe, Santa Claus will always grant your wishes.

“So just wishing everybody a very merry Christmas. Ho ho ho,” Ridenhower said.