About 10 years ago, Ed Evans first noticed people – especially youngsters – staring at him or asking to have their pictures taken with him, especially around the holidays and couldn’t understand why.
“Have you really looked at yourself in the mirror?” wife Deb recalled saying.
Evans had grown a full beard seasonally for many years. But, with his previously salt-and-pepper beard turning all white, the Double Oak resident realized he looked like Santa Claus. Since figuring it out, he has kept the beard year-round and accumulated hundreds of stories of people who have engaged him, including one specific little girl.
It was on a Christmas Eve flight from Baltimore, Maryland, to Albany, New York, to visit their grandchildren three years ago that they noticed the girl crying, because she didn’t know how Santa would find her. The only thing Ed had to give her was a hard-cover copy of The Night Before Christmas, intended for their grandchildren.
While they found a replacement copy– after frantically stopping at Barnes and Noble– the couple decided never to be empty-handed again. They understood that kids endure stress at the holidays. So, last Christmas Eve, dressed in festive clothes, they purchased enough small items to hand out to kids of all faiths in airports and on airplanes.
“It’s just one of those things where kids just need to know someone is thinking about them,” Ed said. “Most of the time, what we’ve found is, when kids are traveling around for the holidays, it’s very stressful. They don’t know if Santa is going to find them. So, we’re there to say ‘it’s all good.’”
They used frequent flier miles earned from traveling for his job as the Tower Climber Recruiter at Ericsson to take one-way flights on Southwest Airlines. They flew from Dallas to Kansas City to St. Louis to Chicago to Albany to surprise their family; then, the next day went through Baltimore back to Dallas. The Evans’s purchased many of the items from places like Oriental Trading Company. They look for small, easy-to-carry items that will fit into satchels they carry along with one change of clothes for an overnight stay.
“To the kids it doesn’t matter,” said the 54-year-old Deb. “It’s something.”
“It about the kids believing,” said Ed, 62.
The New Mexico natives have lived in Texas since the early 1990s. Ed had a small business in San Antonio building microwave towers and defense systems for telecommunications customers. But, unfortunately, it became a victim of the Great Recession.
Ed was hired by one of his customers in DFW and, after commuting here every weekend, he and Deb decided to move permanently to North Texas and stumbled onto Double Oak by accident.
He was soon hired by a former customer to join him at Ericsson in Plano. Ed was a former Tower Climber Instructor and Safety Director and he is known for wearing high black steel toe boots that look like Santa’s.
“We try to keep a low-profile,” Deb said. “We don’t do this for anything other than to help kids.”
For the past two years, they have maintained a high-profile locally, with a sleigh in the Double Oak 4th of July Parade pulled by a red Harley Davidson Trike and accompanied by friends who volunteer to be elves. Ed even shows off his “summer Santa” outfit, including shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
His company has even asked him to serve as Santa during the holiday party this year.
On Christmas Eve, the duo plans to visit a number of western cities like Albuquerque, Phoenix, Reno, Boise and Salt Lake City, based on Southwest flights. Again, they will only stay over one night before heading home after visiting some homeless shelters in DFW.
“It’s just about spreading the care for the little people,” he said.
“Just be kind,” Deb said. “There’s nothing like making someone’s day, making them smile. It makes you proud.”