AS BROMSGROVE Round Table prepares to take Father Christmas around the district for the rest of his tour, Standard reporter Harry Leach decided to join him and the organisation’s volunteers for one night as they embarked on one of his annual sleigh rides.
CHILLING with Santa – and I mean that in every sense of the word – was not what I expected to be doing on a cold Wednesday evening.
But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my career highlights.
To see the amount of effort and planning that goes into just one of the Round Table’s nights out was a real eye-opener.
Members, known as ‘tablers’, have been planning the routes for 2018’s sleigh ride since Christmas last year.
And it showed as they meticulously visited every single road and house, leaving no stone unturned.
But anyway, back to the start.
I met the man in the big red suit in Deansway at around 6pm after I finished work.
It wasn’t hard to miss him, he was sat on top of the Round Table’s 50-year-old sleigh, lights flashing, Christmas music blasting and seemingly having a jolly good time.
Fittingly, ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ was ringing from the speaker.
He was surrounded by volunteers all holding empty buckets, each one of them wrapped up warm ready for the task ahead.
It was amazing to see the fire service cadets, the Ladies Circle and of course, the tablers all together at once, contributing to the cause.
Deansway was the meeting point, but I didn’t have much time to ‘meet’ anyone because the journey was about to begin.
Bucket in hand, I chased after Santa and his sleigh as he shot off into the distance.
Immediately after we started moving, I noticed several young faces appear in their living and bedrooms windows, smiling from ear to ear.
Santa was here and they weren’t going to miss him.
One by one they ran outside with their parents to meet him, either to get a picture of just have a quick chat.
A mum on Tintern Close told me: “We look forward to this every single year. It’s a family tradition now and I’m so grateful for everyone’s hard work putting it together.”
Her 6-year-old son, Ethan, said: “I love seeing Santa, he’s the best.”
As I was running alongside Santa’s sleigh, I decided to speak to a few of the volunteers who were fundraising with me.
Tabler William Ashmore-Wells said: “It’s for a fantastic cause and what’s amazing is it’s not just the children who enjoy it, but the adults too.”
All the money collected from each night out – in this case, from Deansway, Forelands and Hill Top – goes towards helping out the people of Bromsgrove.
Chair of the Round Table, Casey O’Donnell, said: “People message us on our Facebook page and ask for our help.
“We decide what charities and who we are going to give the money to.”
Casey knows how to spot people who are just trying to ‘blag a new iPhone’ and those who are really in need.
He said: “For example, last year, a man had just lost his wife and because of it he was struggling financially.
“We decided to buy all of his Christmas shopping for him. It’s the random gestures which really make a difference.”
After visiting more than 100 homes, Santa and his team decided to call it a night.
They knew it wouldn’t be long before they were heading out in to the cold all over again.
But instead of dreading the next day, their faces appeared to be full of enthusiasm and excitement.
“We can’t wait,” added Santa.
Father Christmas is in Paget Close, Willow Road, Sidemoor and Greyfriars tonight and then Charford on December 18.
On December 19 he will be in Bant Mill Road, Fordhouse Road and Blackwood Road and on December 20 in Norton Farm, Townsend Farm and Catshill.
For those who cannot see Santa on any of the above dates, he will be outside Bromsgrove’s Morrisons on December 22.
His final tour will take him around The Oakalls on December 23.