OMAHA (KPTM) – Hundreds of kids and their parents stood in line not to buy a single item from Nebraska Furniture Mart. No, no. They stood in line to meet Santa Claus.
Santa sat in a full velvet suit in a leather chair, under fluorescent lights. He does this every year for kids.
"Somewhere in my heart I still believe in Santa, you know? I think it's just an awesome thing," Tray Bradley who brought his two sons to meet Santa, said. "Just to have that idea of someone that cares so much about people that they don't know."
But there was something about this Santa many people didn't know. He is a three-time cancer survivor.
"I just keep plugging along [and] enjoying what I'm doing," Santa, whose real name is Rich Bales, said. "[I] Thank God every morning when I get up that I've got another day."
He's had carcinoid, prostate and kidney cancer. From 2003 to this year he's had numerous surgeries. He admits at times his energy is low. Still, he and Mrs. Claus commit to making their appearances.
"Christmas is magic in our heart. It's all year long. It doesn't matter if it's Christmas time or not," Mrs. Claus, whose real name is Donna Bales, said. "It doesn't matter your religion, creed or anything."
Santa's beard, mustache and yes, his belly are all real. This is not a persona he puts on; it's apart of who he is.
Many parents at Nebraska Furniture Mart Sunday found this admirable.
"I'd really like to tip him, but they told me don't tip. He just seems like a really good fella—looks a little like Warren Buffet," Domnic Costanzo, a grandfather, said.
Santa and Mrs. Claus talked with kids for fours hours on Saturday and Sunday. Bales said he looks forward to interacting with kids specifically at Nebraska Furniture Mart because "Americans. English. Japanese. Hawaiian. You name it, I have met that culture here".
Regardless of his health's condition, Santa said he knows Christmas and kids like Kale Fountain who said he wants an iPad mini for Christmas, come with their requests every year.
"If they've been good, I like that [he] gives them a present. If they've been naughty—gives the naughty ones a lot of chances to get gooder," Fountain said.
No matter how many lickin' Santa has taken—he and Mrs. Claus will come to Omaha. Just as long as he is still kickin'.
If you missed Santa this past weekend, he and Mrs. Claus will be back in Omaha at Nebraska Furniture Mart this weekend. You can take a picture with them and get a frame for free.
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