Michael Raftery wouldn’t have it any other way.
For 28 years, he has brought joy and happiness to Quesnel area children and pets while helping raise funds to support animals by dressing as Santa.
On Sunday, Dec. 5 Raftery donned a red and white suit for the second day in a row for Crooked Leg Ranch. The ranch invited parents to bring their children and pets for photos outside the Bouchie Lake Country Store.
“You don’t really sort of realize the power of Santa Claus until you’ve been Santa Claus and see them as they approach you,” he said.
“They don’t see the boot covers and that—they see the fantasy that they’ve got in their head, which for me that’s the best part.”
Raftery started appearing as the jolly old gent in a photo fundraiser for the SPCA.
Over the years, he has been asked delightful questions by curious children about Santa’s reindeer and has posed for photos with all sorts of animals.
“I’ve had everything from a fish, and you had to hold the tank up next to you, to a snake and a tamed wolf,” Raftery said.
“I’ve had miniature horses to full-sized horses, to every type of dog, and chickens and pigeons.”
Raftery doesn’t get paid for dressing up as Santa Claus.
He called Crooked Leg Ranch a great non-profit that takes in and cares for various animals.
The Quesnel animal rescue group is funded through the support of local people and businesses, said Fauna Eyford, a volunteer and director.
“We’re kind of limited to what we can do depending on the resources that we have, and it’s very expensive,” she added.
“We try to take in animals that are a little harder to adopt out, so they often will have health issues, and it’s a lot of money to the vet. Sometimes the animals never get adopted, so we keep them in a sanctuary, in foster homes, so they can live out their life.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged fundraising efforts as most in-person events have been cancelled or restricted.
Crooked Leg Ranch was unable to do photos with Santa last year.
“We’re outside this year because it’s a little bit safer, but it’s nice to see the repeat dogs,” Eyford said, estimating 50 photos were taken Sunday.
”We’ve been doing it so long we’ve had dogs from puppies until they’re old and grey, so that’s kind of neat seeing our regulars and the kids—that’s cute.”