Father-of-three builds sleigh and reindeers that will tour around Northamptonshire villages this Christmas
A man from Roade - with the help of his friends, family and local businesses - has put together the ultimate Christmas float to bring joy to children and raise money for food banks
A man on a mission to spread festive joy has built a sleigh from scratch so Santa can pay a visit to Northamptonshire villages this Christmas.
Hedging and grass maintenance trader and father-of-three, Luke Costello, 32, from Roade is determined to make people smile this Christmas after what has been a difficult two years for everyone during the coronavirus pandemic.
'Christmas mad' Luke, who grew up in Potterspury, spent last December making light-up 'Thank you NHS' signs that were displayed outside his house as a tribute to hardworking healthcare staff and, this year, he has plans to go bigger and better, building a sleigh and reindeer from scratch to pay a visit to families across Northamptonshire villages.
Talking about his inspiration for this festive project, Luke said: "My daughter was four at the time and we saw a sleigh going around town but it was on the back of a pick up and I told her I would get her a better one. That is how it all started really."
Luke's wife, Lauren Costello, added: "There was a sleigh going around the villages and I think he saw the effect it had on the community - he said it had no reindeers and he would like to make one himself. I thought he was joking until he actually went out and bought the wood."
This marked the start of what would then go on to be an exciting project for Luke with the help of his family, friends and the local community. Luke put aside £1,000 of his own money to fund the build.
His brother, Ryan, helped to build the sleigh and his father, Rob, donated the trailer and did the welding. His friend, Luke Haycock - described as 'a keen artist' - has been painting the reindeer. His cousin, Tom Smith, has been liaising with suppliers for donations to the Trussell Trust charity, who they are raising money for.
While Luke was all over the hands-on building aspect of the Christmas float, Lauren took on the marketing plans, Facebook page management and the mapping of the sleigh's route.
When local businesses and community groups got wind of the big project, they were also keen to hop on the band-sleigh.
Waitrose in Towcester donated 60 packs of 22 bags of Haribo sweets and Potterspury Sports and Social Club donated 1,000 individual bags for Santa to hand out on his journey in Luke's sleigh. The Dulux Decorator centre in Northampton donated the paint and Nathan Jones of Global Brand Partners, donated £200 to pay for the LED lights that will line the sleigh.
Several friends have also helped to craft some collars for the deer as well as reins so they will make a nostalgic 'jingling' sound when Santa pays his special visits.
Lauren said: "The real credit is to Luke, whose idea it is and the driver behind it all. We are just helping support his dream to see everyone happy this Christmas whilst raising money to help others next year during these unprecedented times.
"We are hoping this will be an annual thing that will grow year on year. Luke jokes that, next year, he will make the reindeers fly."
Here are the confirmed dates and locations for the 'Santa's Squad - Charity Christmas Float' so far:
◾ December 1 - Hartwell and Ashton
◾ December 12 - Deanshanger
◾ December 19 - Potterspury and Yardley Gobion
◾ December 22 - Roade
Dates are waiting to be confirmed in Stoke Bruerne, Blisworth, Paulerspury, Whittlebury, Towcester, Old Straford and Emerson Valley.
All money raised from the Just Giving page for the project will go towards The Trussell Trust charity, which supports a nationwide network of food banks, provides support to those in poverty and campaigns for change to end the need for food banks.
Luke, on his chosen charity, said: "I want to help people out who are struggling. Food banks should not exist but they are needed right now. A lot of people have lost their businesses over the pandemic and many are in rough housing as a result."
Community and events engagement manager at the Trussell Trust, Kate Merrifield, added: “We want to thank Luke for all his incredible support and for helping to raise vital funds to end the need for food banks in the UK – thank you.
“Millions of people are being pushed deeper into poverty across the UK and facing decisions this winter that are not just difficult, but impossible – such as going hungry or heating their home. This December, food banks across our network face giving out over 7,000 emergency food parcels a day to people who need them.
“But we know that this can change. Thanks to the amazing supporters like Luke, food banks within our network continue to provide the lifeline of emergency support for people in crisis, while we work in the long term to create a fairer, more just society where everyone has enough for the essentials.”
Luke will drive the quad bike that will guide the sleigh on its journey around Northamptonshire and they are recruiting volunteers from each of the villages they are visiting to play the part of Santa and his elves.
Lauren added: "I just hope more than anything he will see everyone's faces light up as he comes into the villages. You know, after Covid-19 and people not being able to see each other, I just think he wants to add the magic for people this Christmas."
To keep up with the progress of Luke's sleigh and dates, follow the Santa's Squad Facebook page.