Ashley Paige was on the hunt for art to fill her new home in Elberta when she saw him. All 6-feet 8-inches and dressed for the season. It was a Father Christmas piece by local artist Miss Donna.No …
Ashley Paige was on the hunt for art to fill her new home in Elberta when she saw him. All 6-feet 8-inches and dressed for the season. It was a Father Christmas piece by local artist Miss Donna.
No details were overlooked. Miss Donna made every piece of Father Christmas from his clothing to his staff and his hand-painted face. Customers of Black Eyed Susie's, the shop he resided in, admired him daily during his three-week stint there.
That night, Paige went home and couldn't stop thinking about the art piece.
"I went home and thought other people need to see this," Paige said. "I felt like children needed to see him."
Due to the one-of-a-kind art piece's $1,000 price tag, Paige wanted to find someone to help her purchase Father Christmas. When she woke up the next day, she called Susie Broxson, owner of Black Eyed Susie's, to tell her her intentions.
Paige got busy. She found a partner to invest with. Next, she had to find a place to display it where it could bring joy to children. She called women's and children's shelters around the Gulf Coast, but none had a space where it would be untouchable by curious little hands.
Then, she was put in touch with Nemours Children's at HCA West Florida Hospital in Pensacola. They had a spot behind the check-in area where they see 200 children a day. It was perfect.
All this in three days.
The snowball of kindness continued to build. Paige made a call to Broxson who enlisted her husband, Gary Broxson, to deliver the NBA player-sized art piece to the hospital and set it up. Paige also found someone who volunteered to build a storage crate.
Paige took to calling the art piece Father Santa. When speaking with her about this whirlwind acquisition, she gets emotional.
"My passion and drive are to share him with others," Paige said.
The emotion in her voice comes from her own story and background. She was raised by her grandmother in Pensacola and was an only child. For most of her life, she felt alone and moving over 30 times as a child made her feel like she didn't have a home.
At 18, she hopped onto a Greyhound bus and headed to Los Angeles with a dream to be a fashion designer. She put herself through art school and found success in the fashion world, but the grind of the industry took its toll, so she opted to leave it all behind and move back to the Gulf Coast to be close to her family.
Paige said she had the calling to become a foster parent during her time in Florida, and the two children she fostered left their mark on her heart. Once she moved to Elberta, she decided to become a registered foster parent in Alabama, and she hopes to give a sense of home to the children in her care.
She said she hopes Father Santa brings a sense of home and a touch of magic to the children who see him.
When asked what the future holds for Father Santa, Paige said she hopes to add on and create a moving art show. Her goal is to commission Miss Donna to create three caroling children and a reindeer family with a doe, buck and fawn in the future. She is hoping to collect donations to make those dreams come true.
After his stint at Nemours Children's at HCA West Florida Hospital in Pensacola, Father Santa will go into temperature-controlled storage. Paige is looking forward to having more time to find locations to display Father Santa during the holiday season in 2023.
For more information about Paige and her project, visit www.ashleypaige.com.