The 'Mountain Santa' of Harlan County

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
For 40 years, Mike Howard would travel across Harlan County with a singular purpose - to brighten the lives of families there. Dressed as Santa, he delivered thousands of toys to children and families who could not afford Christmas. He would stand by the roadside as winter approached, seeking donations from the public for toys. Working with other family members in their workshop (which sits on a road named 'Santa Lane', I kid you not!), he would collect and wrap around 3500 gifts to distribute. Then, on Christmas eve, pickups filled with toys could be seen driving across Harlan County delivering toys to thousands of houses.

man behind leaf

Mike Howard came to be known as the 'Mountain Santa' for his gracious act of kindness. 

man beside truck
Mike Howard seeking donations

Underneath the jolly red suit and white beard though, there was a tragedy not many knew about. And it eventually got the better of the Mountain Santa. In 2018, Mike lost his long battle with cancer, a blow further deepened for the family when his wife Barbara passed away months later. 

santa claus with a boy
The late Mike Howard aka the 'Mountain Santa'

And yet, as December came by that year, Harlan County woke up to find a Christmas miracle - the Mountain Santa had returned with a row of pickups to deliver gifts to families once more.

pickup vehicles filled with toys and Santa Claus
Dozens of pickups, all filled with yours, led by the 'Mountain Santa' of Harlan County

How did this happen? 

Even as he mourned the loss of both his parents Mike and Barbara, son Jordan Howard worked non-stop to ensure the Mountain Santa tradition did not end. He donned the same robes his father wore, went out to the roads seeking aid, bought the toys and gift-wrapped them all.

In 2019, Jordan Howard successfully completed his second year as the Mountain Santa, continuing a family tradition of bringing joy and hope to thousands of families. 

Heroes of Kindness:

Since 2017, every year, I take up the #BlogchatterA2Z & #AtoZChallenge and focus on showcasing lovely real-life heroes from around the worldThe aim is to remind you that there is still plenty of good human beings all around you... to inspire you to smile once more.
You can follow my 2020 Edition of Heroes of Kindness here.

Want more stories of compassion? I have Hundreds of 'Heroes of Kindness' to brighten your day here:

2017 edition (Articles - 40, Heroes - 67)
2018 edition (Articles - 34, Heroes - 52)
2019 edition (Articles - 31, Heroes - 42)

Heroes of Kindness - Indian edition
Heroes of Kindness - My Interviews

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Let me know what you think.

  1. Your posts are inspiring. And I do hope reading this we can all do our bits and be someone's Santa.

  2. What a heartwarming story. The world needs more of people like them. Enjoying your series.

    Suzy Someday Somewhere Letter H

  3. Mike was indeed Santa in real life. And the fact that Jordan decided to continue the tradition speaks volumes about the trait of kindness that run in the Howard family.

  4. A truly generous soul. And I'm glad to know that his son continued in his footsteps. For the Howards, kindness seems to be a genetic trait.

  5. THe ture definition of SAnta. ANd an awesome heart warming story

  6. This is such a heartwarming story! So beautiful that the son carried forward the legacy left behind by this father!

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