For 16 years, Ron Gambrell has put on his Santa suit, packed up his sleigh, and traveled to hospitals, doctor’s offices, churches, and daycare centers across Northern Kentucky.
Gambrell said God blessed him with white hair and white whiskers, so he plans to continue playing the part of Santa as long as he can.
One place Gambrell is fond of visiting is the Fort Wright Christ Hospital Cancer Center, where he has gone for the past six years.
“When I walk in there, the light that they get in their eyes, it’s just something that you can’t describe,” Gambrell said. “But it’s a love that’s there, and it’s there all the time. For some reason, during the holiday season, it just magnifies. I got to talk to one of the patients I hadn’t met today, and I’ll tell you his spirit was the life of the party.”
He said that everyone is always in a cheery mood when walking into a place with as much devastation and illness as the cancer center.
“It’s sobering, and it really puts you in check,” Gambrell said. “I could go in there feeling as bad as I could feel, and when I come out of that oncology department, I’ve got no reason to feel bad.”
Aside from the patients, Gambrell said he also visits the staff and thanks them for their service.
“In the medical field, these people keep us going; we forget about them until we need them,” he said.
Gambrell realized his knack for being Santa when he started dressing up for his sister’s foster children. He also credited his father, whom he lost this year, for encouraging him to do what he does best—putting on his best Santa act to bring smiles to people’s faces during the holidays.