Being involved with theatre for a large part of his life makes playing Santa Claus a natural progression for Ryan Gravett. Gravett ‘06, a former theatre design/production major at the University of Findlay, could recently be found playing Santa at the Toys for Tots party on Dec. 6, sponsored by Student Activities Board, the Office of Student Activities, Commuter Services and Leadership Development, and the Campus Safety and Emergency Management Office.
Students and staff alike stopped by the Alumni Memorial Union and made a donation. They also met Marines and chatted with Santa and his helper dog, Mishka, a therapy dog owned by Sharinda Welton, director of Student Activities, Commuter Services and Leadership Development.
Gravett has been playing Santa for a few years at various functions, but this is the first opportunity to arise at his alma mater. According to Welton, he has been very generous to UF students in the past. “He has always offered and created opportunities for us to have ‘special experiences,’” she said. “His love for what he does and sharing it with others, including UF students, is one of his passions.”
Gravett, currently the audio supervisor for the Olney Theatre in Olney, Maryland, even grew a real beard for the first time this year after wearing a pretend one for other stints as Santa in the past. “It’s a commitment,” he said, adding that he had to touch up his beard with some white coloring in order to appear more authentic. “But it’s for a good cause. This is my first year back since graduating, and I’m here because playing Santa is something I enjoy doing, and it makes me feel good to see the smiles on people’s faces.”
The drive started on Nov. 27 with the goal of collecting 300 toys on campus, helping the U.S. Marine Corps, the Salvation Army, and CHOPIN Hall to provide four toys each to Hancock County children in need for the holidays. The 2017 Toys for Tots drive has more than doubled its goal by collecting 649 toys to date.