Pat’s a jolly good fellow

Pat Sheehan as Santa surrounded by fairies. 160280

By Justin Flynn

PAT Sheehan knows a thing or two about being Santa Claus.
So good is the Ocean Grove retiree at playing the jolly red-suited fellow, Pat has been summoned by the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney specifically for the role leading into Christmas.
Pat and wife Bev, who will accompany him as Mrs Claus, will be flown up to the NSW capital on 10 November where they will stay until at least Christmas Eve to play Santa Claus for the iconic shopping centre’s Christmas festivities. They will spend around six weeks in Sydney in a full-time role – and have been locked in for next year as well.
The shopping centre could have had its pick of any local Santa, but so convincing is Pat, it wanted only him.
Pat has been playing the role of Santa for 25 years.
“One of the most amazing moments I had was when I was Wodonga at a hospital and I was doing the rounds of the wards meeting the sick kids,” he said with tears starting to well in his eyes.
“I saw one ward where there was a young girl who would have been around six. She was in a coma and her grandmother was by her bedside. I went in and asked if I could sit with this young girl and hold her hand. I sat there and told her that it would be Christmas soon and Santa would have some presents for her and of course she was in a coma so she didn’t respond. I left and as I was walking out of the ward I heard a commotion in the room. I thought the worst and rushed back and asked what was happening. The grandmother said the girl woke from the coma almost instantly and said ‘Santa’. That was the moment that will stay with me forever.”
“Every year Pat would dress up as Santa for picnics and barbecues and he was Santa every Christmas,” Bev said.
“He is amazing at what he does. He just has those social skills.”
Pat will spend seven minutes with each child he meets in Sydney.
“It gives me time to tell them little stories about my reindeers and the elves,” Pat said.
“I’ve rarely had a rude kid. You can win them over if you have that time. Sometimes I’ll get teenagers coming up for a photo and I tell them to stay at school and complete Year 12 and sometimes they will come back with a box of chocolates for me as a present. I’ve even had a 91-year-old women sit on my knee.”
“The ladies like him,” Bev laughed.
Pat keeps up to date with the latest kids’ movies such as Frozen and Monsters Inc so he can relate to them and can instantly recognise kids’ costumes and ask them about it.
It gets hot under the Santa suit and, yes, kids do try to pull his beard off.
“They pull it hard thinking it’s fake and then the look on their face when they realise it’s a real beard is priceless. I only wear a singlet underneath the suit but being bred up north originally in Merbein, I’m used to it.”