UofL fan makes the season brighter for Southern Indiana kids

Santa visits with Sara Neathamer and children who were struck by a motorist in front of the KFC Yum! Center in September 2014.
Santa Claus visits with Sara Neathamer and children who were struck by a motorist in front of the KFC Yum! Center last year. Sara is holding Nathan, the baby who was delivered by emergency C-section the night of the accident.

The Christmas season is always challenging for families of limited means, especially for those with seriously or terminally ill children.

Mike Benson, a long time University of Louisville fan from Sellersburg, Ind., makes it his mission during the holidays to bring cheer to some needy families. A big guy, he’s a natural fit for Santa Claus as he delivers laughter and gifts.

No doubt about Mike Benson's loyalties at Coyle Nissan in Clarksville
No doubt about Mike Benson’s loyalties at Coyle Nissan in Clarksville.

Among those he visited this year is the family of Sara Neathamer, who was six months pregnant, when she was struck by a vehicle in front of the KFC Yum! Center in September 2014. With her were her 6-year-old daughter Shyanne and 3-year old son Jayden. She gave birth to a 2-pound baby boy named Nathan by emergency C-section the same night.

Benson recently visited the family, providing them with clothes and toys. “Nathan has a brain tumor and may be going blind but his face lit up when he saw Santa Claus,” says Benson. “All of these families are going through a lot. Visiting with Santa is just a moment in time and hoping to give them a lasting moment of happiness.”

Born on Dec. 24th himself, Benson made an appearance at a local church on Sunday. On Christmas Eve, he will visit with five different families, delivering more gifts. He says the gifts are provided by Lamb’s Lawn Care & Landscaping, DeMarsh Graphics and Linda Graf, of Kohl’s, in Clarksville. He does it for free, of course, and his services are in demand from local organizations.

Benson got started doing Santa Claus because one of his granddaughters didn’t want to stand in line at the local mall. “I went out and bought a Santa outfit and went to her house,” he says. “Somebody saw it on social media and asked if I would play Santa Claus for some needy children and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

“Christmas has taken on a whole new dimension for me,” he says. “To see the smile on the faces of the children makes it all worthwhile.”

A service advisor at Coyle Nissan in Clarksville, Benson will spend Christmas day with his six grandchildren.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.