West Lothian mechanic's custom sleigh raises charity cash
He's a mechanic through the day, but at night he transforms into Santa Claus spreading Christmas cheer in an eye-catching customised sleigh.
Owner of The Garage in Whitburn, Ian Robertson began the venture in 2015 as a way of saying thanks to his customers.
The souped-up Suzuki Vitara tours the area getting everyone in the Christmas spirit while raising money for charity.
Thousands see Santa each evening and he also stops off for special visits to charities, schools, Christmas parties and care homes.
This year, members of the public can go along to see Santa at his grotto at The Garage where each child receives a goody bag and has the chance to get the picture with the man himself.
Ian says he could never have imagined how his Santa sleigh has grown in popularity over the years with it now being a top Christmas attraction in West Lothian.
A team of 20 volunteers now run the sleigh to meet overwhelming demand with six people needed at all times to ensure the initiative runs smoothly.
He told the Evening News: “The Garage is helping Santa and his helpers by visiting Whitburn and the surrounding areas bringing some festive joy.
“The first year we customised our courtesy car because it is quiet at this time of year. We just thought it would be a great idea for the community.
“We painted it red and decorated it with lights and it looks like a proper sleigh. There’s also a lot of old unwanted teddies and presents in the back of the sleigh which have been donated.
“We have Christmas music playing out and people absolutely love it.
“We can’t keep up with demand. We’re having to tell people that we can’t do some things. We do as much as we can. We covered 850 miles last year and this year we expect to do more than 1000.
“We run the garage day-to-day and then we go out and put smiles on people’s faces on the sleigh at night. It is a lot of hard work but everyone comes off that sleigh with a smile on their face.”
The Santa sleigh has a tour planned each evening until December 18 and everyone can keep track of its whereabouts on The Garage (Whitburn) Limited Facebook page.
Locations include Bathgate, Whitburn, Blackridge and Seafield among many more for people to get a glimpse of Santa.
The community has huge appreciation for Ian and his elves who donate their time purely for the benefit of others.
Ian says the cost of hosting the event is around £2000 now but he admits to getting a buzz at seeing the joy on people’s faces when they see Santa and his customised sleigh.
He said: “It is quite a lot of money to spend for this but we make thousands of people happy each night.
“It is mental how much this has taken off. It’s fantastic to see all the smiling faces, not just from the children but from everyone. There is a huge demand for this and every day I’m surprised at how much joy we bring to people.
“The kids get so excited and you see loads of people getting their phones out and taking pictures when they see the sleigh because they simply are not expecting it.
“We have had a lot of messages asking us when were going to be in certain areas and at what time.
“The phone never stops ringing with requests from parents and community groups.
“We inform everyone about the where and when on the Facebook page first, and you can access the information to get the sleigh’s live location.”
The volunteers unite to cheer up people wherever they can and are asking members of the public who can to make a donation to Disability West Lothian https://www.givey.com/disabilitywestlothian
The Evening News has teamed up with Tesco, Network Rail, Hibs, Hearts, NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government this year to run our Edinburgh Cheer Christmas campaign – aiming to make the city and the Lothians the “Capital of Kindness”.
Whether it’s inviting someone to lunch or donating items to a local foodbank, the campaign is designed to show how easily we can all give something back.