Hometown Heroes | Santa & Mrs. Claus
There's nothing like the joy on a child's face when they sit on Santa's lap and express their Christmas wishes.
And there are two people who make it their mission to make sure every child gets that chance.
'Santa & Mrs. Claus,' better known as Jack and Ann Lanham to so many, have been traveling across West Virginia for 38 years now, visiting children in areas from Summersville, to Morgantown to the West Side of Charleston.
On Saturday, Santa & Mrs. Claus made a stop in Mount Nebo in Nicholas County at the Summersville Lake Retreat and Lighthouse for the "Santa at the Lighthouse" event.
The event has been going on for years. Santa's helpers at the lighthouse collect donations through the year to give to students in the area from kindergarten to second grade.
Steve Keblesh says the best part about the event is seeing the look on the children's faces when they get to sit on Santa's lap.
"They truly make a huge effort to get to as many children as possible throughout the season so they can sit on his lap and express their wishes for the season," Keblesh said. "That's what it is all about."
This event is a little different than others. Santa doesn't show up in his sleigh, but instead shows up in an old pickup truck.
Children wait in line at a gazebo in front of the lighthouse for the chance to sit on Santa's lap and and then pick up their bag of gifts, along with their photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"It's one of the smaller events that we do," Keblesh said. "It's by invitation only for the children that we bring up here and not many people see this event, but it's by far the most rewarding one that we do."
'Santa & Mrs. Claus' first started their mission in 1981.
"Ann and Jack they just embody the whole spirit of the Christmas season," Keblesh said. "They've been a part of Summersville for, I think, 38 seasons now."
"Our neighbor had asked him to do a party, and everybody there went crazy over him, and so he did it for about a year without me," said Mrs. Claus. "He came home with a dress for me one day so we've been doing it ever since."
A lot has changed since they started their mission back in 1981, but what hasn't is the pure joy they are spreading.
"When we started 38 years ago, I never thought we would see what we see today," said Santa Claus. "But it's been a blessing. It really has."
Both of these WSAZ Hometown Heroes say they don't do it for the recognition, but instead do it as a ministry.
"The kids that we see, they are the heroes," said Santa Claus. "That's what keeps us going. The need. They are the ones that should be recognized. We are just here for this mission. This is our ministry."
Several different organizations and groups donated items for this year's event including: