Charity Santa Claus Career Spans Generations

The first time Mike Larrivee dressed up as Santa Claus, he was hooked. Eighteen years ago, at the request of his wife, Mike donned a smelly used Santa suit and a fake beard. The Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department needed a Santa for a station Christmas party, and Mike, a volunteer firefighter at the time, was just the man to play the role. Mike visited with children aboard an antique fire truck, listened intently to their wishes and then headed home. 

But not long after, he got a call on the radio. A 4-year-old boy who missed the station party wanted to see Santa. When Mike returned, still dressed in his used suit and false beard, the boy was overjoyed. 

“The little kid had come running,” Mike says. “He thought he’d missed Santa. He just throws his arms around my leg, and I was hooked from that part on.”

A lot has changed for Mike since then. He’s now on his third suit and grows his own Santa-style beard. He’s attended Santa fashion shows. He’s a member of Lone Star Santas, a nonprofit professional Santa club. He’s appeared in the annual Parade of Lights sponsored by the Texas Volunteer Firefighter Relief Fund for more than a decade. 

Every year his act changes. He learned to do the dab gesture during parades and wants to master the floss kids’ dance next. Mike’s been Santa Claus for so many years he’s even visited with the children of parents who saw him when they themselves were children. 

“We all want to play a significant role in people’s lives,” he says. “I get to do it for maybe an hour or two hours, and that in itself is motivation to do it again.” 

And he does it all for free. 

While many professional Santas charge upwards of $100 per appearance, Mike doesn’t charge nonprofits and community organizations who need a Santa. For private or corporate groups, he asks only for a donation to his two favorite charities: the Kiwanis or the Texas Volunteer Firefighter Relief Fund.  

“The real payment is in the kids,” Mike says, insisting he “gets paid over and over again.” The children’s smiles and laughter lift his spirits during a season focused on sharing love. 

“I get to experience love from all kinds of people that I might have never gotten to know otherwise,” he says.