More than 30 years as Santa - Mick delivers gifts to children in need
Santa Claus came to the lakes area a day early this year.
On Saturday, Dec. 23, Santa - aka Dave Mick - delivered presents and food to children in the Christmas for Kids program around Pequot Lakes and Nisswa. He has done the same thing on Christmas Eve for roughly the last 30 years, since Christmas for Kids was formed.
Mick, of Baxter, remembers the program's beginning, when volunteers spent about $35 for each child and mostly just on toys.
He then saw the program beginning to grow.
"It became much more what the kids needed," Mick said. "It really has progressed."
Now, volunteers donate and shop for toys, along with essential items like toiletries and fixings for a holiday meal for each less fortunate child and family enrolled in the Christmas for Kids program.
As a retired conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Mick worked closely during his career with the local law enforcement officials who helped champion the Christmas for Kids program more than 30 years ago. Ever since then, dressing up as Santa and delivering presents is just another part of the Christmas season for him.
"It always puts you in the Christmas spirit," Mick said. "Like they say, 'Christmas is for kids.' (It's) quite rewarding."
Aside from delivering gifts, Mick enjoys seeing the community come together for such a good cause.
"A week before, they always get together - community members - and wrap presents," he said. "Everything is very well laid out."
One such community member Mick works especially closely with is Kathy Trees, who plays the elf to his Santa. He said the two have made Christmas Eve rounds together for at least the last 15 years. And Mick doesn't plan to change that anytime soon, as stated when asked if he sees himself continuing the tradition in years to come.
"As long as my elf, Kathy, continues to do it," he said.
The reactions from children and their families when they get to see Santa is another added bonus.
"They really are appreciative," Mick said.
The other 364 days a year - when he's not playing Santa Claus - the St. Cloud native is enjoying retirement with his wife of 46 years, Dee, and spending time with his two kids and five grandchildren.
Before his more than 30-year career with the DNR, Mick got an education degree from St. Cloud State University and taught elementary school in Michigan for a year. He then spent six years in the Army and reserves, after which he decided not to return to teaching. That's when he turned to the DNR.
"I originally had thought about going into forestry, but they weren't hiring, and enforcement was at the time," he said. "And the rest is history."