Darryl McLean, Santa's Helper
If you work at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER), each November you are prepared for a visit from Darryl McLean. He is our representative for The Circle of Love, a program where teachers and counselors from Central Kentucky schools nominate needy kids in Fayette, and surrounding counties, who receive Christmas presents from UK employees.
"This is the highlight of my year," says Darryl. In fact, his efforts have proven so successful that the CAER was responsible for a quarter of all the UK gifts donated to the program this year.
Maybe the 66 year old McLean is so committed to this effort because his own life hasn't been easy. Born in Cincinnati, the early part of his life was filled with obstacles. Due to some early mistakes, he had to overcome a drug addiction and spent time in prison. It has been a long, hard battle, but his life is a success story. He has worked at the CAER for 26 years where he is an engineer technician associate. In addition, he speaks to young people about the not-so-glamorous side of drugs. He is active in support groups and is a speaker, photographer, vendor at a number of events, and loves to help people.
For years, Darryl could be seen jogging (or in recent years walking) throughout Lexington. His athlete's body belies his age. He used to run 5 miles a day, but recent injuries have reduced his distance and speed a bit. He says he likes walking though. "When you slow down, you can see so much more."
Getting back to the Circle of Love, when Darryl asks, it is an offer you can't refuse. When all of the gifts are in, he checks each package against the child's 'wish list.' If he thinks the wishes haven't been satisfied, he will fill in the holes with his own money by making an extra shopping trip.
He isn't above using guilt as a tactic. He says, "Some people have the money, but just won't take the time. I tell them that if they give me the money, I'll do the shopping for them." - and he does. This year, out of the CAER's 67 full time employees, gifts were purchased for 75 children. He says he's happy to challenge the rest of the university's departments next Christmas to beat these numbers.
Darryl McLean really is a Secret Santa to many children in the Bluegrass. Without ever meeting him, they enjoy an enhanced Christmas experience, because of the sincere and untiring efforts of one man.