Where would we be without the amazing volunteers at Ripon Lions? Praise has been pouring in for the group, which goes above and beyond to bring festive cheer to every street in Ripon.
The Lions create magical memories for children and adults alike when they take Santa and his sleigh on tour around Ripon, and the experience can often give a welcome and very heart-warming lift to those who might be going through a tough time due to illness.
Sara Sills, whose five-year-old daughter Mabel has had nearly 30 operations to date, said she has nothing but praise for the big-hearted Ripon Lions volunteers.
Sara said: “Mabel’s face was pure magic when she saw Santa, and for the first time in a week her little face lit up. She wasn’t well enough to go out, so Santa came up to see her, and it was beautiful. When you feel alone and it’s been a rough week, this just makes the biggest difference and makes you see you’re not alone, and there are so many truly amazing people in the world.”
Ripon Lions volunteer Ele Hartas said: “What we all enjoy most about helping with the sleigh is seeing the joy on people’s faces, old and young alike. The genuine awe from children is just the best thing to see. It is a truly magical thing for them. To have the belief in the magic of Santa is such an innocent thing that needs to be preserved for as long as possible.
“It’s a special tradition in that parents of youngsters remember the sleigh visiting them when they were younger, and like to see that tradition carried on. You are never too old to see Santa. When you drive past people in the sleigh, everyone waves, young or old.”
The Ripon Lions work round-the-clock to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and some onlookers might not be aware of exactly how much time and effort goes into making it all happen.
Ele said: “The time and coordination it takes is the part that people don’t see. We begin arranging things in October - we need to get the sleighs out of storage and check them over, service them, look at the MOT, tax, and insure them. There are licences that we have to arrange and the rotas to sort. We need at least six collectors for each sleigh, a driver and a Santa. The routes are arranged and put in order according to how much help we have that night as some routes need more than others.”
Ken Ferguson, who has volunteered as an elf helper, said: “The Lions are one of Ripon’s traditions that I remember from when I was a child, then I’ve seen the joy on my son’s face when he was a child. It’s not Christmas till we have seen Santa and the Ripon Lions have come round, it really is magical. It’s so rewarding to give something back to something I enjoyed growing up.”