In 2012, Morgantown’s Santa, Mike Hopkins, graced the cover of Morgantown magazine, surrounded by children. We were sad to learn of his recent passing and send his family our condolences. In honor of Mike and all the joy he spread in the community, we are sharing the article that ran in our Dec/Jan 2012 issue. We like to imagine he is now flying in an open-air sleigh being pulled by magical reindeer.
Eating millions of cookies. Getting to see the inside of all of the houses in the world. Knowing who has been naughty or nice. Flying in an open-air sleigh being pulled by magical reindeer. Talk about a unique career.
Mike Hopkins was only 18 years old when he became Jolly Old Saint Nicholas—one of Santa’s Morgantown helpers. It was 1972, and Mike’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, had a Christmas party for underprivileged children. “I was a lot thinner then,” he says. “I guess you could say I’ve grown into the role.”
Local businesswoman May Christopher, who owned the Dollhouse, made Mike
his first Santa suit. She let him rent it for $10. “I later bought the suit, and I now fill
it out perfectly.”
Mike is always in Santa-mode. “I just love it. Even adults become kids again when Santa enters the room,” he says. “I had such a great childhood. I remember as a child
on Christmas mornings kicking the end of my bed to see if I heard a jingle, which meant my stocking was stuffed and that Santa had visited.”
For 40 years, Mike has been making the holidays special for kids, delivering everything from motorbikes to puppies to drum sets. “I’m now visiting third generations of children,” he says.
But this Santa gives more than just presents. He has been collecting donations for WVU Children’s Hospital since 1986. “When I go to events, I don’t charge, but I ask folks to write a check to the Children’s Hospital. I’ve collected more than $50,000 since I started. It’s my way of giving back and helping more children.”
From visits to local businesses, schools, and nonprofits that include places like Jackson Kelley, HealthWorks, Morgantown Rotary, FCI Morgantown, Suncrest Primary, and Stepping Stones, to personal visits—where he can stop at three to 10 families’ homes a night—he estimates that he sees at least 300 children each December. “I always gather the children around and read The Night Before Christmas. The kids look up at me with starry eyes. It is magical.”
One of his most special memories was visiting Tom and Christine Wade’s house early on Christmas morning. “Their son was almost five years old and scared of Santa. I stopped by at 6 a.m. and he caught me putting presents under the tree. I don’t normally get caught. I told him that I needed to hurry because I had more children to visit, but to be a good little boy and listen to his parents. He was wide-eyed and excited. It was the neatest experience.”
But not all youngsters are captivated by the man in the red suit. “Many kids around 1 to 2 years old are afraid. I just speak in very gentle tones and don’t force the issue,” he says. “Others crawl up into my lap and give me a list of things they want for every person in their family. There’s such innocence. I wish we could all stay as innocent as children.”
Not surprisingly, Santa is involved with the Morgantown Jaycees and helps organize the Morgantown Christmas Parade. “Christmas is always a special time of year. It is all about the spirit of giving. It shouldn’t be just one day—folks should keep the spirit all year long. It’s about children. Celebrating the birth of a child. It doesn’t get more special than that.”