By Jamie Leary
GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - When Santa Bill isn't busy gearing up for the holidays, you will find him tending to his reindeer and other animals at his ranch in Idaho Springs; The Laughing Valley Ranch.
Bill Lee is best known as Santa Bill to most in the community. He's been serving the community through storytelling, burro races and holiday events for years.
In September, his primary mode of transportation caught fire on the side of Interstate 70. Good Samaritans pulled his trailer to safety, but the timing couldn't have been worse. Santa Bill was officially without a sleigh.
The word spread fast, and people wanted to help.
"You know public service, that's all the guy has done in his life… between the lighting of the trees, you know the reindeer, all of those animals are very expensive to take care of," said Jeremiah Curtis, owner of Bodacious Diesel.
Curtis said when his 5-year-old son heard Santa Bill's sleigh caught fire, he begged his dad to help. Curtis didn't hesitate. He made calls to other local businesses and one week later, they got to work.
"There's 20 businesses involved in this that have all given out and some people don't even want to be recognized. They don't even want their name on it just because they're happy to do it," said Curtis.
Over the next few weeks, people came by nightly to work on the truck.
Even Curtis's son stayed up late, insisting that he help build Santa Bill's new sleigh.
"Just every night, it's something different whether it was people bringing us dinner. I mean we had more support than we could use. We literally had to say no to some people."
From a donated transmission to candy cane shocks, business offered what they could.
Curtis said between all the people who helped, nearly 5,000 hours of work went into building Santa Bill's sleigh.
"These days, people aren't spending money to go up to Idaho Springs and go up to Santa's workshop. It's all Amazon and this and that. The spirit of it has all been lost, and this is more about community and people getting together and the way it should be."
Curtis and others were working with a tight deadline, but a little more than a month after the fire, they were able to surprise Santa Bill with his new sleigh.
On Sunday, businesses gathered with their families at Bodacious Diesel in Golden where they surprised Santa Bill and unveiled a brand new diesel "sleigh."
Curtis dubbed it the "Puller Express." Every detail on the truck was personalized.
The gesture left Santa Bill practically speechless.
"You know, I depend much on my trucks and to have a truck like this that's going give me years of good service. It's just unbelievable for me," said Santa Bill. "I'm hoping that it doesn't go quite as fast as the reindeer."
Santa Bill's trailer was also damaged in the fire. Friends have setup a GoFundMe page to help him cover additional costs.
It took the following businesses, coming together, to make Santa's sleigh possible:
AC Transmission of Golden, Big O Tires, Rocky Mountain Driveline Company, Golden Coach Works, Boot Hill Truck, Premier Performance, A-1 Transmission and Gear, Industrial Injection, Advance Auto Parts, Larry H. Miller Ford in Lakewood, A-1 Auto and Metal Stripping, D&J Towing, Loeffler Stair Company, Mountain High Performance, Biscuits and Berries Catering Company, VJ's Embroidery, E&J Terminal, Tracy's Welding, Loeffler Stair Company and Bodacious Diesel.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn't imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.
for more features.