If you don’t believe in Santa, you haven’t met Todd Brauch of Lincoln.
Brauch has worked as one of Santa’s helpers since 1984. He finds joy in spreading the magic of Christmas to thousands of kids and adults each year.
You might have seen him making snow magically appear before the Christmas tree lighting at SouthPointe mall in Lincoln. Or, he might have entertained you with Santa magic at an office party.
Brauch works in the insurance business during the day. But, this time of year, every weekend and most evenings are filled with entertaining kids and adults through his business, Santa Claus Visit. After the holidays, he transitions to bringing laughter and joy as Happy D. Klown.
How Brauch Became Santa
It all started when Brauch was in college. He missed the staff meeting for his cafeteria job because he was studying. Since he wasn’t there, his co-workers chose him to play Santa for the cafeteria Christmas celebration.
His co-workers watched through a window as his supervisor shared the news. They expected Brauch to be somewhat upset over his assignment. Instead, he embraced the opportunity.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is cool,’” Brauch said. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
He comes from a family who loves Christmas. He recalls positioning speakers on the roof of his rural Nebraska home as a teenager to blast the sounds of holiday songs across the countryside.
He found joy in his first stint as Santa, and he was asked to play the role several times that first year entertaining everyone from college students to nursing home residents.
After college, Todd worked at a radio station in Beatrice and was given another opportunity to play Santa at his church. A few years later, he ordered his first custom-made Santa suit and launched his own joy-making business, Santa Claus Visit.
The Santa Business
Brauch spent much of his career at Lincoln Benefit Life and now works for Senior Insurance Marketing in Lincoln. His entertaining businesses take place after hours.
Brauch has worked as the official Santa at SouthPointe Pavilions in Lincoln since the mall opened in 1999. Brauch doesn’t limit his work to taking Christmas wishes from kids. He performs magic, makes balloon animals and sometimes brings extra help (elves) to paint faces and create airbrush tattoos. He visits daycares, malls and private homes upon request and entertains at company holiday parties, weddings, adult parties and was even asked to entertain the family at a funeral!
His Santa job has taken him across the Midwest to other Nebraska towns, South Dakota, Des Moines and Kansas City.
He employs more than 30 part-time employees, who help with extra activities and also act as extra Santas, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, The Grinch, or elves.
Brauch takes his job making people happy seriously and pays close attention to the tiniest details. Each year, Brauch orders a new custom-made Santa costume that is crafted with special red velvet from New York. His handmade beard is glued to his face, and his signature mustache curls up on the ends. It takes him about 30 minutes to transform into Santa.
After the holidays, he trades the beard and red suit for elaborate clown make-up, bright red hair, a sparkly blue vest and wild pants to play Happy D. Klown. He has traveled to seven states to entertain at county fairs, flea markets, business open houses and children’s events. He sometimes serves funnel cakes, fruit smoothies and polish dogs along with his entertainment. In addition to Happy D. Klown, he and his staff can entertain as Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny and Beauty and the Beast.
Brauch estimates that he entertains at least 30,000 children and adults each year.
Spreading the Joy
Brauch said what he most enjoys about his business is making people happy.
“There’s a lot of things going on in the world and just making people happy and taking them out of their element into a different happy world is what I enjoy doing,” he said.
While most days as Santa are filled with happy moments, he sometimes encounters difficult requests. For several years, he played Santa for Charlie Brown’s Kids – Good Grief, a support group for children who have suffered the death of a parent. Brauch said one boy waited until the end of the event to ask Santa to bring his mom back for Christmas. Brauch turned the boy’s attention to an act that would help him work through his grief — hanging a special Christmas ornament on the tree that reminded him of his mom. That boy returned in later years to tell Brauch that placing that ornament on the tree had become a special tradition for him.
Brauch’s part-time job takes up most of his free time, but he doesn’t mind.
“During Christmas, you are helping people,” he said. “Sometimes I start at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get done until 11 at night and then I wake up and do it all over again. You get that Christmas high. To me that’s Christmas, making people happy.”