Cypress man leads convoy of Santas to Joplin
A group of professional Santas from Texas, including Jim Fletcher of Cypress, made an emergency mission to Joplin, Missouri earlier this month.
"The day or two after the Joplin tornado, I had this vision that, wouldn't it be neat if Santa could pass out toys to these kids who've lost everything?" says Fletcher, a member of a group called the Lone Star Santas.
With help from other Santas and local churches, Fletcher gathered about 3,500 donated toys and bought a few more with the help of cash donations. They loaded the toys and supplies into four pickups, then began their drive, arriving in Joplin on Saturday, June 4, and stopping on the way to hand out some toys in another tornado-ravaged area, El Reno, Oklahoma.
"We allowed children to select one or many toys, whatever they wanted," Fletcher says.
"A little boy and his dad came up to one of our Santas and he reached in and pulled out a Transformers toy," he recalls. "He looked at this toy and a smile came over his face and he looked up at his dad and said, 'This is just like the one that I lost.' At that point, we realized that Santa does cry."
Fletcher says he and the other Santas came back "physically and emotionally spent." The trip was much more taxing than the average Santa visit, especially considering that June 4 was also Fletcher's 71st birthday.
But they're determined to keep up their efforts. The group is now preparing to form a 501(c)(3) so that it can accept tax-deductible donations, and writing a pamphlet on how Santas can provided disaster relief for children.
"This will help us on future missions, and we plan on providing it to other Santa groups across the nation so we can all learn from our experience and provide Santa relief to these kids," Fletcher says.