Walter has been delighting Houston children and families as a professional Santa for eight years. As he ramps up for the holidays, Walter is battling cancer. But his mission to serve joy and bring light to those who need it most stays strong.
HFM: Tell us the story of how you came to be a professional Santa.
WK: I became Santa after a few years of being a clown. I got tired of painting on a beard and moustache, so I grew a beard and moustache. I took my grandson to Bass Pro to see Santa, and that Santa asked me, “When are you going to become Santa?” That put the idea in my head.
HFM: What do you recall of your holidays as a child? I would think, to be a successful Santa, Christmas must have dwelled deep in your heart well beyond your childhood fascination with Santa Claus and presents.
WK: My father was a dentist. He never showed a joy for Santa, but he always showed love for children and family. He was an only child whose father died when my father was only 10.
HFM: Do you have children?
WK: Yes, I have 5 children.
HFM: How do they feel about your being Santa Claus?
WK: They all were grown before I became Santa. I have three grandchildren. One—the one I took to meet Santa–just doesn’t care. The second one, every time he sees anything that looks anything like Santa—like the blow-up Santa’s they have at stores–he says, “Paw Paw!” The third one is only two months old.
HFM: You’ve been responsible for bringing Christmas cheer to parties and events for 8 years now. Has your enthusiasm for the job changed over the years?
WK: Over the years my Santa has gotten stronger, once I realized there was a reason for doing it.
HFM: How did that come about?
WK: Several years ago, I was working at an airport, and a woman came up to me. I normally do not ask adults what they want for Christmas, but this one woman I did ask. Her response was, “I want to get rid of this cancer.” So I asked, “May I pray for you?” She began to cry. Finally someone cared. Many situations since have given me many reasons to be Santa.
HFM: What’s the most challenging part of “being Santa?”
WK: The most challenging is much like what I was just talking about. I am asked for the impossible, and there is no way to answer. Like last year a child told me, “All my parents do is argue. They never spend time with me.” All I could do was talk to the child’s grandmother.
HFM: What’s the most rewarding part?
WK: The best is when a child asks for everyone just to have a nice Christmas–nothing more.
HFM: You are currently battling cancer. How are you doing now?
WK: Yes, I have been fighting cancer. I recently found that the cancer has moved to my brain.
HFM: What effect has this had on you and your holiday spirit?
WK: It put me in a tail spin. I was committed [to play Santa] all over the place. All I could think was, “How can I serve when I have this in my brain?” I just found they will do radiation and be done just in time for the holidays–only by God’s hands.
HFM: How does your wife support you as Santa?
WK: I take “Mrs. Claus” everywhere I can. She is a big help.
HFM: How should parents explain to their kids the presence of Santa Claus at department stores and Christmas parties–are any of them really “Santa?”
WK: Santa has lots of helpers because he cannot be everywhere at the same time. But they all have a heart of Santa.
HFM: What do you like to do when you’re not doing all your Christmas work?
WK: I go to Santa meetings. I also belong to a non-profit called Lone Star Santas. We take toys to families who have lost everything.
HFM: What advice do you have for parents who are struggling in some way this Christmas season? How can they keep the holiday magical for their kids?
WK: My advice is just do your best to keep the true reason for the season at heart and in their memories. Luke, chapter two.
HFM: Do you think “It’s better to give than to receive?”
SC: Oh, yes. There is so much joy in seeing someone receive something they have wanted.
HFM: What’s your favorite type of gift to receive at Christmas time?
WK: There is not much that I want, except to see everyone smile. All gifts made with love are by far the best.
HFM: What’s your favorite Christmas song?
WK: “Here comes Santa Claus.”
HFM: What’s your favorite Christmas story?
WK: It has got be the Christmas story from the Holy Bible, the 2nd chapter of Luke.
HFM: What do you think is the best way to spend Christmas Day?
WK: With those who love you and whom you love.
HFM: Any last words for our readers?
SC: I wish all Houston families a very merry Christmas.
Note: Moms and Dads, if you would like to arrange for Walter to appear at your party or event–or perhaps your child would like to send a thoughtful card to him as he battles cancer, please send email to [email protected]