IF YOU have bumped into two people dressed in red asking if you have been bad or good this year somewhere in the Baw Baw region, chances are you met William and Coral Slegers.
Above: William and Coral Slegers in costume. Photo by Rayleen Slegers.
First published in the 12 December 2014 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get a copy today from retailers across Baw Baw.
The pair of former dairy farmers from Drouin have been volunteering to play Mr and Mrs Claus at many community and private events, including primary school visits and the recent Drouin Lights Up Christmas event, for a long, long time.
“I’ve lost count of how many years we’ve been doing it, and my Dad did it before me,” Mr Slegers told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
You read that right; Mr Slegers is a second generation Santa Claus, and his role has become bigger over the years. Especially after he started volunteering as Baw Baw’s official Santa almost a decade ago.
“They didn’t have one here in the shire and I was doing it already, so I approached the shire and said ‘hey, where’s Christmas in the Baw Baw Shire? I’ll volunteer to do it, so long as you supply the lollies,’ and that’s what they did.”
Playing Mr and Mrs Claus has become a full time job for the couple, who also visit kinders, shops, girl guides and other groups across West Gippsland.
“It’s get up, check on the calendar what we’ve got on every day,” Ms Slegers said.
It is a team effort too, with Ms Slegers often taking care of the younger children they meet.
“Their little eyes and the excitement in their faces, it’s wonderful,” she said.
“You do get the babies, when they’re 18 months to two years old, who can be quite frightened. Usually I can win them over and maybe I’ll nurse them instead of Santa, but apart from that, the little ones, the bubbles in their faces is worth all the time we’ve spent doing it,” Ms Slegers said.
“I guess in some ways it allows us to be like children again, to play a game. We love it.
“It’s also a chance for us to teach some more naughty children who help themselves to lollies some manners!”
Even when performing at private functions the pair do so for charity.
“The private ones I ask for a donation to the Lions club so we can give some money to the two primary schools in Warragul money for food,” Mr Slegers said.
When not in character, Mr and Ms Slegers do other volunteer work and travel. No, not by reindeer-hauled sleigh, but by caravan.
“We travel around Australia,” Mr Slegers said.
“We’re doing things for children. I make toys for children and some of them I sell and some of them I give away.”
“And I do a lot of sewing, I sew clothes for the orphanages overseas,” Ms Slegers said.
The couple has also cared for children as part of the Legacy program.
“We’ve always had time for kids, they’re the generation of the future,” Ms Slegers said.
The couple recently bought a new caravan and are looking forward to travelling, “but they wanted to deliver it on the 17th, and
I said ‘I can’t take it until after Christmas,’ because it’s full on, Mr Slegers said.
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