The students at St. Helena-Incarnation call him “Santa Ray” and everyone who has met him would agree that he represents the spirit of love and generosity Santa is known for. Every December, he puts on his Santa outfit to visit with the students at his alma mater and deliver a reindeer-sized check. This past December, he presented his biggest check yet – $7,000 – bringing the total amount he has fundraised for the school over the past 5 years to nearly $20,000!
The man in the red suit is Ray Cline, owner of Libertas Consulting and Incarnation Class of 1994. His biggest inspiration — his mother, Celeste Ann Cline — currently teaches Pre-K at the school, but she has taught every grade in her 47 years there.
Ray feels fortunate to have attended what was then called Incarnation Catholic School. He credits much of his professional success to the academic foundation laid at “Inky.” He cherishes many great memories and feels that the diversity of the school and parish prepared him well for life. But the thing he carries with him most is the spirit of giving.
“I remember the story from Mark 12:41-44 of the Widow who gave all she had,” he says. “It wasn’t much, but it was everything she had to live on. That stuck with me. I try to give all I can back to the community as well, because the community gave to me when I needed it, and I feel as though I should do the same in return.”
Ray believes that Catholic education is by far the best education option for children living in the city. He started his yearly fundraising effort to help ease the tuition burden for families who sacrifice so much to ensure their children receive a quality, faith-filled education.
The Santa Ray idea came to him when he was walking through a store one day and saw a Santa suit. It brought back the magical memory of being in elementary school when Santa visited.
He immediately called his mom to say, “Remember when Inky had Santa? How cool would it be if I came to your classroom as Santa and read a story to the kids? What if we got some donations and brought a check?” He and his mom talked it over, got permission from the school, and the rest is history!
Apparently, when it comes to giving back, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Ray says he frequently asks his mother why she doesn’t teach in the suburbs where she could make more money in a safer neighborhood. She always responds the same way: “You got a great Catholic education in the same neighborhood I still teach in, by great teachers who believe the same as I do. The children today deserve this, too.”
Ray says his favorite part of playing Santa is “knowing that I am helping make a memory for them that they will remember for years to come, and hopefully inspiring them to give this same gift back to future generations.”