In 2018, Allan Evans from Porthcawl was a tax adviser by day, and a husband, father, and Bampi by night.
However, when he was approached by an old colleague for a favour, he had no idea how it would transform the family’s lives.
The colleague noticed a certain likeness between Allan, originally from Maesteg, and jolly old Saint Nicholas.
Allan recalled: “I received a phone call from a colleague I used to work with about three years ago.
“She asked me if I’d like to be Father Christmas for the Tata Steel children’s Christmas parties. Not quite sure why they thought that, I say patting my big belly and pulling my white beard. But I thought, well, I’ll give it a go because they didn’t have anyone else to stand in.”
Allan and his wife, Sharon, sourced a local seamstress to make him a suit, and he had a few trial runs with some local Scouts before attending the Christmas parties as the Steel Works Santa.
Christmas 2018 came and went, however, the passing of a colleague in 2019 meant Allan would have to dust off his Santa suit for a rather unusual appearance.
“A friend of a colleague of mine in work, Alex, he loved Christmas, but unfortunately passed away quite suddenly. He had a heart problem and everyone that went to his funeral was dressed up in Christmas jumpers.
“I went there as Father Christmas because his parents and his fiancée said he would have been really chuffed if Father Christmas had attended his funeral, so I did.
From there Allan contacted the British Heart Foundation to arrange some fundraising.
“I spoke with my family, and the concept of the ‘Family Claus’ was born.”
The family decided to go all-in on the fundraising, arranging visits to Pyle Garden Centre, home visits, and Christmas parties. Allan also sorted outfits for his wife and daughter from the seamstress who made his suit.
“I didn’t want to be a Coca Cola Santa, I wanted to be something different, something that would encourage people to put their hands in their pockets.
“I went into a shop and said, I’d like to have something like this, this sort of colour, and from there she made the suit that I’m wearing now. I think it’s amazing what she’s done. She then made an outfit for my wife, Mrs Clause, and my daughter, Katie, who is my Chief Elf Candy Cane.”
The grandchildren are also very supportive of the family’s venture. “My granddaughter, Serena is 11 now and my grandson, Harrison, is seven. My grandson is very cute he says, ‘when you got your hat on your Santa, when your hat’s off, you’re Bampi’.
“I explained to them that Santa gets very very busy towards Christmas time and he asks certain people, who’ve got the magic of Christmas in their hearts to help him out. And I’m very proud that he’s asked me.”
The family have spent their Christmases since raising money for various local charities. After the passing of Sharon’s mother last year from Alzheimer’s, the family turned their efforts to fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru.
Last year’s fundraising was made difficult due to Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions, however, Allan and the family continued doing what they could to make Christmas special and continue fundraising despite the tough circumstances. This included video greetings and appearances, and Covid-safe appearances at the garden centre.
“It gives you a good feeling, it is the magic of Christmas. When people got out to the Santa experience last year, a lot of parents would turn around and just mouth the words ‘thank you’, because they wanted something normal in the pandemic world.”
Even with the restrictions, Allan and his family managed to raise over £10,000 for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru, earning him the Dementia Hero Award for fundraising this month.
“I was told about the nomination just as my wife had been diagnosed with cancer. It gave us a real morale boost, like a lovely thought just to think that somebody’s taking the effort to write into Alzheimer’s to say what we’ve been doing. It was really nice to read on the web at the time.
“When the media announced that I was the winner, there was complete silence in the room because we didn’t believe it, we thought the others would have got it. Then all of a sudden it sunk in and we all started jumping up and down it was wonderful. It’s a wonderful feeling and a nice thought. I’m very, very honoured.”
A spokesperson for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru said: “Allan, aka Steel Works Santa, is not only a truly inspirational fundraiser, but he has also been a beacon of light and hope during the dark days of the pandemic. He saved Christmas for many people across South Wales, all whilst raising vital funds for Alzheimer’s Society Cymru.
“The past year has been tough for all of us. But imagine how much worse it would have been if you couldn’t understand why it was happening: why you no longer saw your loved ones; why your carers stopped visiting or why they wore masks. Tragically, this was the reality for tens of thousands of people living with dementia in the UK.
“Since the pandemic began, Alzheimer’s Society support services have been used more than 3.7 million times, showing that people affected by dementia need us now more than ever.
“Allan’s incredible festive fundraising has helped us to be here for the 46,000 people living with dementia in Wales.”
With Sharon’s recent diagnosis, the family aren’t sure what this Christmas will bring for the Family Claus appearances, however, Allan is already thinking ahead.
“A local photographer has teamed up with me and a Christmas trees company. They’ve allowed me to take photos, and we’ll try and sort of make up some Christmas cards and other sort of festive related items that we can sell and hopefully raise money for Alzheimer’s again.”
Did you manageto see Steelworks Santa at Christmas? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
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