WALLINS CREEK, Ky. (WYMT) - Some children in Eastern Kentucky were treated to a visit from Old Saint Nick in Harlan County Monday. In what has become a yearly tradition, kids were given toys and treats courtesy of Mike Howard, otherwise known as the Mountain Santa.
Fifteen trucks sat loaded with toys Monday morning. A cold, drizzling rain threatened to put a damper on the festivities, but Mike Howard, the Mountain Santa, was not worried.
"We kept on praying and the sun shined out just for a few minutes on us; it stopped raining," he said.
With the weather cleared, dozens of volunteers were set to help Howard deliver toys and goodies to kids who might not have the best Christmas otherwise.
"Every year, everyone that comes out to help is truly a blessing to us," said Tyler Saylor, Howard's nephew. "And it's a blessing to me as well to be able to come out and help as well."
Howard says he is not really sure just how many toys he gives out every year, but he says the reaction from children is always the same.
"They just come out and give you a big hug. They sure welcome you. It's good," Howard said.
Parents and grandparents we talked to say they really appreciate the work Howard does, and they say the kids are always thrilled to see him.
"They love Santa Claus," said Patricia Cobb, whose granddaughters got presents. "They was excited, very excited."
Howard has been playing the role of Mountain Santa for 37 years. He says he loves the chance to spread some Christmas cheer, and has no plans to retire any time soon. He says he thanks the people who volunteered their time and their resources make Mountain Santa possible.