Santa arrives early to spread holiday fun

Throughout the year Dr. Russell Proctor II, professor in the communication department and advisor to the Speech Communication Club, spends his time teaching various speech communication courses, being an advisor to many students, being a loving husband to Pam and a father to R.P and Randy.

What many people don’t know about Proctor is that, once a year, in place of his everyday attire he dons red velvet pants, overcoat, hat and black boots. His face is transformed with a white beard and long white hair.

Yes, Proctor is Santa Claus. At least for children from the Head Start Program, which provides day care for disadvantaged children ages 3-4

For the past seven years the Speech Communication Club has held a Christmas party for these children.

“The gift the child receives here might be one of the only gifts the child gets during the holiday season,” Proctor said.

“We lose sight of that,” he said. “I look at this and say ‘Oh come on, it’s just a truck.’ Well, it might be the only truck that he receives.”

On Dec. 4, in the Baptist Student Union, surrounded by 20 children, Proctor said he had a bird’s eye view of how much this Christmas party means to the family and the children.

“There was a little girl there who, when she opened up her present it was a Spongebob Squarepants. She opened it up (and) her mother burst into tears,” Proctor said. When she (the mom) finally stopped crying, the little girl said ‘Can I go and hug Santa?”

“(The little girl) came running up and gave me a big hug and the mom started sobbing all over again,” he said.

“I looked at it as a $15 gift, no big deal, but it’s huge for these kids and these parents,” Proctor said. “It was a very precious moment.”

The idea for the Christmas party came about several years ago when a couple people in the club wanted to do something for someone else instead of just having parties and guest speakers, Proctor said.

One of the women in the club had been in the Head Start Program, and Proctor said she remembered things that were done for her as a child really meant a lot to her.

He said the woman remembered that someone threw a Christmas party, and it was one of the only gifts she received that year.

Knowing this, he said, the club thought it was a wonderful idea because they thought they could make a difference.

Every year the club raises money for the party by selling various things. This year they sold candles and raised about $300 to $400 for a party that typically costs $500.

With the money the club is able to purchase something each child placed on their wish list, Proctor said. They spend about $15 dollars on each child.

At the party Santa passes out the presents, and Proctor said every time he does it he feels a warm, and generous.

“It just feels like I’m very special,” Proctor said. “And that’s a cool feeling.”

Playing Santa one day out of the year is not only a good feeling, it’s magical, Proctor said.

“All the sudden I go from to being me to being ‘Ho, Ho, Ho,’ “It’s magic. These kids are mesmerized,” he said.

“Everyone wants to hug you, and touch you, I put them on my lap and ask them what they want for Christmas and you just watch their big eyes.”

Proctor has been the adviser for the Speech Club for the past 11 years, and this year is his last, he said. He said it’s both a combination of getting older, and his son being a speech major at Northern Kentucky University.

Wendy Falato, another professor in the speech department, will become the coordinator next semester. The club meets every other Wednesday at noon in Landrum 108.