This holiday season, professional Santa Chuck Spencer of Matthews is making sure a healthy lifestyle is part of his work as St. Nicholas.Santa Chuck, 58, the “real bearded Santa,” became concerned that his round belly was shaking a bit more than a bowl full of jelly. “I have seen so many of my Santa counterparts who are not in good health and are living sedentary lives,” said Chuck. So it came as no surprise when he was recently spotted on the McAlpine and Matthews Greenways riding his 18-speed mountain bike to shape up for his important role. Santa Chuck wants to be able to extend his professional career for many more years. Santa Chuck did not originally seem destined to play the role of Santa. Born in Charleston and raised in the Triad area of North Carolina, he has been married to Lori for 39 years. They raised two daughters and now have two grandchildren with a third one due in May. The majority of his work life was spent in human resources and safety. “I don’t even have any early childhood memories of sitting on Santa’s lap,” said Chuck.Things changed 10 years ago when he had to have major abdominal surgery. “Things didn’t go well. I got all kinds of infections and was in a coma for two months. When I woke up, I had a white beard,” Chuck said. Unable to go back to work, Chuck adjusted to his new life and searched for a new niche. The white beard was grown and shaved several times, but when he had the beard he got all kinds of comments from friends and strangers about how much he looked like Santa Claus. Five years ago he relented. He grew his snowy white beard back for good and embarked on his career as a professional Santa Claus. Chuck says he is one of about 25 professional Santas in Piedmont area of North Carolina. He said there are about that many more who “dabble” in the profession. Ultimately, he points out, it is the children who decide which Santas will succeed. “You have to be aware of the persona Santa evokes,” he said. “I look every child right in the eye, and feed off of their excitement. Even though I may have seen 100 children during the day, I want each child’s visit to be a great one.” His devotion to his role landed him the coveted Santa seat in this year’s Thanksgiving Day Carolinas’ Carrousel Parade. His steely blue eyes, white hair and beard and red Santa garb make him a dead-ringer for the real guy. The only thing Chuck is missing is that big, fat belly. “I got myself in gear last June and started biking and hiking on the greenways. I also started eating healthier – no gluten and lots of fruits and veggies,” Chuck said. He plans to start hiking in the Uwharrie National Forest after Christmas and has set a goal to hike the entire Appalachian Trail some day. The only folks who miss the rotund Santa stomach are the Moms who are looking for the yearly Santa picture with their children. The kids don’t seem to mind. Santa Chuck is considering investing in a fat suit to perfect the look without compromising his health. But for now, there are many local children who are counting on Santa Chuck to take their Christmas requests back to the North Pole. Chuck, who has gigs in Birkdale Village in Huntersville and brings his talent to company parties, retirement homes and nonprofits, will be manning Santa’s chair 30 or more hours a week through Dec. 24. That’s when the last child will sit on Santa Chuck’s knee and ask him if he’s the real Santa. Every time Santa Chuck hears that question he knows how to respond. He just smiles with his rosy cheeks and touches his cherry, red nose.
Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012
This Santa stays in shape for the season
Living a healthy lifestyle comes with responsibility
Santa Chuck rides his bike at Squirrel Lake Park in Matthews. Riding is part of his weekly exercise regimen to keep in shape for his seasonal Santa duties and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Santa Chuck, in his street clothes, waves to passersby on Trade Street in Matthews. He is a member of the Fraternity of International Real Beard Santas (FIRBS) and the Amalgamated Organization of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS).
Learn more: Santa Chuck Workshop: 704-562-2593; SantaChuck@carolina.rr.com; www.santachuck.com.