FAIRBORN — Fairborn native Paul Shadowen puts on the big red suit each year to play Santa Claus with the intention of bringing joy to local children, but not only does he “look” the part — he also acts it.
Shadowen, a retired mechanic, currently volunteers at the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry on a regular basis and is entering his 33rd year playing Saint Nick.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for kids,” he said. “And I get so much joy from doing this.”
Shadowen was involved with the former Ohio Veterans’ Children’s Home on Route 68 in Xenia. As Christmas approached one year, the director asked him if he had ever dressed in the big red suit and played Santa Claus. He answered that he hadn’t, to which the director asked him if he would.
He has found joy in playing the role ever since.
At one point, Shadowen found a job and lived in San Antonio, Texas and continued his jolly tradition. While playing Santa one year during an event that involved a parade, a little boy approached him with his letter. Shadowen tucked the letter away and watched as the young boy ran back into his house. Shadowen shared that the letter said, “Dear Santa, my mom and dad are in need of these items. I’m sorry about what happened in home room this year, but if you can I would really like a Stretch Armstrong toy.”
Shadowen picked up a Stretch Armstrong for the little boy in the following days and approached the home out of costume with the gift, already wrapped, in-hand. The mother answered the door and Shadowen explained who he was. He handed over the present, which brought tears to her eyes. Shadowen asked if he had done something wrong and the mother explained that the father had lost his job a few weeks prior and all the little boy had talked about was the Stretch Armstrong toy.
“It’s always about the kids,” he said.
During a breakfast with Santa event, a young girl — dressed to the nines with a green velvet dress and patent leather shoes — climbed into his lap and handed him a gift. Shadowen explained that it was not her job to give him a present, to which she responded, “No, Santa, it’s a travel alarm clock. Don’t be late.”
“It makes me smile from ear-to-ear,” Shadowen said. “It’ll make me tear up. Some of the stuff is just amazing.”
As Shadowen made playing Santa his own tradition, his late wife would join him dressed as an elf. He explained that Christmas became an important holiday for his family — even playing the part for his own household.
“When it’s all said and done, I get so much joy out of this,” Shadowen said.
When Shadowen is not playing Santa or volunteering at the Fairborn FISH Food Pantry, he may be found cooking as it is another one of his favorite past-times.
“The best thing you can do is ask me for my recipe,” he said with a smile.
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.