Santa Claus brings Christmas cheer to Wesley Chapel

Santa & Mrs. Claus host party in son's memory
Posted at 10:47 PM, Dec 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-26 01:47:47-05

Before Santa takes off to deliver presents, he loves posing for pictures in his sleigh.

The Christmas Eve neighborhood party has been an annual event for 11 years in Wesley Chapel.

"This is our family tradition on Christmas Eve," said Keera Reid.

Keera Reid is celebrating Christmas with her three sons, her children's godparents, and neighbors.

"I think it's just special coming out here and seeing everyone together," said Keera's son, Jacob Reid.

Every year, Santa spends a few hours snapping selfies and family photos with more than 500 people outside his house.  And every kid who comes by, goes home with a gift.

"After I see all the kids here, I tell them they need to go home and go to bed right away because I'll be coming to their houses!" said Santa.

Santa, who sometimes goes by Paul Bartell, started this tradition as a way to give back to his community.
And it's become a big part of how his own family celebrates the holidays.

"With all the money in the world, you couldn't buy tradition," Santa said.

But two years ago, on Christmas Day, Santa and Mrs. Claus lost a piece of what makes this night so magical, when their 16-year-old son Sean died from complications of a rare medical condition.  Instead of letting that stop their holiday spirit, they've kept the party going in his memory..

"If I can give joy to 300 kids or more, that makes my day.  That makes my year," said Santa.

And Keera Reid hopes every kid who sits on Santa's lap this Christmas Eve can glean a little of his giving spirit.

"It is really about giving.  It's much better than to receive.  And I hope they're getting that message today from everyone coming and being so kind and generous and loving and just caring about our kids and neighborhood and everything," she said.

And as Santa gets on his way for a night full of spreading Christmas cheer all around the world, he knows the families who came to see him in Pasco County, will leave with a sleigh full of memories. 

The Bartell family also raises money throughout the year, and takes donations from Santa's appearances, to put into a scholarship fund in Sean's memory.  Last year, the family gave out $7,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors in Wesley Chapel.