WALLINS CREEK, Ky – Tucked away in one of those winding mountain hollers where the fog hides in the trees and 4-wheel drive comes standard is a Christmas tradition unlike any other.
“We have a boy truck and a girl truck.. a baby truck and a teen truck,” April Galloway explains on a soggy and cold Saturday morning. She is directing traffic, so to speak.
“All this that you see, every bit of it came from the Lord.”
The Harlan County resident is surrounded by volunteers and neatly wrapped presents as they are loaded into a convoy of heavy-duty trucks. Galloway’s brother Jordan is nearby.
“My father started it in 1975 with one truck and it just grew each year,” Howard says.
His father Mike Howard started a tradition of delivering Christmas presents to underprivileged children throughout coal country. He would soon be known simply, and affectionately as, “Mountain Santa.”
“If you don’t cry. There’s something wrong with you. I’m telling you,”Howard preps our reporter.
In 44 years the tradition of “Mountain Santa” grew into what it is today. Dozens of volunteers, some traveling hundreds of miles to help deliver thousands of donated gifts.
“The coal mines aren’t doing so good. Just over the years, the economy here has just declined and for us to be able to continue this. It gives kids less-fortunate and their parents, who are laid off, it gives them a Christmas.”
With sirens blaring the Christmas caravan of presents roll through Appalachia stopping wherever they see children. It’s an incredible sight.
“t’s amazing what ya’ll do. We appreciate everything that ya’ll do,” a mother tells Spectrum News 1.
For the second year, Jordan Howard is wearing his father’s big red suit. Sadly, in 2018 the original “Mountain Santa,” Mike Howard, lost his battle with cancer. Son, Jordan is carrying on his legacy and a tradition of giving.
“It’s amazing. I’ve got no choice I have to do it. I told him before he died. When the Lord tells you to do it you do it.”