MONTGOMERY, Ill. — For the last three holiday seasons, a suburban man has been lighting up smiles by moonlighting as “Mobile Santa.”
Tom Davis, 54, of Montgomery, first got the idea in 2020 as COVID-19 kept everyone isolated.
The single dad and newly-empty nester decorated a sleigh and got a Santa costume for a Toys For Tots event, but the virus canceled it.
“I thought ‘the kids are going to want to see Santa,'” Davis said. “So, I put the sleigh on my trailer and started driving around with music.”
Kelly Moore Gossett, who lives around the corner, was one of the first families who noticed what Davis was doing.
“The neighborhood loves him. There are kids who line up and watch,” Moore Gossett said. “He gets letters and made his own Facebook page. It initially was word of mouth, but now he posts his map and people volunteer to drive him.”
For Moore Gossett, Davis’ selfless gesture meant a little more. Just after she turned 30, the mother found out she IgA nephropathy — a kidney disorder also known as Berger’s disease.
“It’s a seven-year waiting list, I’ve had some people offer to donate — but it’s never a match,” she said.
After she posted a video of her son, Michael, reacting to Davis, “Mobile Santa” reached out with a surprise. He said Michael’s reaction “made his day” and Davis gifted a brand new bicycle to the young boy.
“My son waited five seconds and was riding it around in the parking lot,” Moore Gossett said.
As Davis drives through neighborhoods of Montgomery and nearby Oswego, he stops so families can take pictures and hands out candy canes.
Kids can leave their Christmas lists with him thanks to a mailbox Davis installed on his sleigh.
He is a self-admitted shy and reserved person, but something changes when he puts on the Santa costume.
“I could be having such a crappy day and as soon as I put on the suit and go to the first houses — I feel renewed,” Davis said.
“Mobile Santa” hasn’t just lit up smiles of young people and families. On Monday night, Davis drove to Elmwood Terrace Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Aurora.
“I didn’t have any routes and they had them all gather in the main room. I backed up my truck near the window and played some old school Christmas music,” Davis said.
Davis asked if he could go inside to spread some cheer and said he “didn’t want to leave.”
“They were tickled to death,” Davis said. “They were happy to see me.”
Employee Ashley Dombrowski, who lives near Davis and asked him to come out, said her patients couldn’t stop talking about it on Tuesday morning.
“It took them back,” she said. “We had a couple residents that were in tears. We have had a hard time with COVID.”
When asked if Davis has a donation link — he declined.
“I appreciate it, but I’m not doing it for the money,” Davis said.
If you’d like to see if you’re a kidney match for Kelly Moore Gossett, fill out this questionnaire and mention her name and birthday of Oct. 19, 1989.