OXNARD, Calif. — For Mike Barber. it all started with a statue of Santa.
“When my kids were growing up, I would take them every Christmas up to Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria and visit Santa out there and all the festivities. Was kind of devastated when we found out that they took them down and then if they didn't find a new home for them, they were going to destroy him,” said Santa to the Sea Founder Mike Barber.
Mike Barber made a bold decision to relocate the beloved Carpinteria Santa statue to Nyeland Park near Oxnard.
“We volunteered to take Santa. We didn't know what it would lead to. We just knew we had to save him,” said Barber.
What started with a Santa statue 20 years ago has now transformed into a decades long tradition.
This weekend half marathon participants will meet at the Santa statue and run for 13 miles to the Channel Islands Harbor.
“You get to see a lot of really cool parts of Oxnard that if you aren't familiar with the area that you wouldn't necessarily know exist, especially the historic downtown Oxnard District and the candy cane lane that people go all out with decorating,” said Santa to the Sea Race Director Benjamin Dewitt.
There will also be a quarter marathon, a 5k run, and a diaper dash for the babies to get involved in some family friendly fun.
“Cute little babies that are only can crawl race across the stage to win this trophy,” said Barber.
The money raised from the weekend races will help local low income communities through a holiday toy drive and scholarships to Oxnard college.
“Santa doesn't focus on just one population, right? He concentrates on everybody. So we wanted to make Santa to the sea fun for the entire family, to get everybody involved. Who knows? Maybe these diaper dash contestants will end up running the half marathon someday,” said Santa to the Sea Sponsorship Coordinator Mary Anne Rooney.
Each year the weekend long festivities are able to provide kids in need with around 3,000 toys.
Since its inception Santa to the Sea has provided $500,000 in scholarships.
Mike Barber said the Santa statue is here to stay, hoping the spirit of giving continues for decades to come.