Ben “Santa” Cohen shops for free food at the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program’s distribution day Dec. 21. Cohen, a low-income earner, was ready to hang up his Santa hat—something he does to earn extra money—because he was in need of serious dental work. After receiving free dental work through a mobile clinic, Cohen was able to book more than 40 Santa gigs in 2019. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

Cloverdale man smiles his way through Christmas season

Surrey Santa says his life has changed immeasurably since getting free dental work

It’s been three months of smiles for Cloverdale’s Ben “Santa” Cohen.

After receiving free dental work in September, Cohen has had dozens of Santa gigs across the Lower Mainland.

But it wouldn’t have worked out this way had City Care Dental not stepped in to help him out.

“I was on the verge of losing jobs,” Cohen said. “No one wanted to hire a Santa that was missing a front tooth. I couldn’t smile with people. I’d have to hold in my laughter, or smile tight-lipped,” he explained. “I felt horrible and I didn’t have the confidence to be me.”

That lack of confidence nearly sidelined Cohen.

But when City Care teamed up with the Pacific Community Church and MLA Marvin Hunt to offer a dental outreach clinic for low-income earners, Cohen’s life changed.

Dr. Wendy Gaudet, director of City Care Dental, said she was overjoyed City Care could help Santa. “He was turned down for work this year,” she said at the time. “He is the perfect Santa—he is Santa—but he wasn’t able to smile.”

“It is amazing the difference that a little dental help can make in people’s lives,” Hunt said at the time. “It immediately gives them confidence. They stand taller and smile bigger almost right away.”

Cohen said he’s never been busier working as Santa.

“I’ve come a long way,” he explained. “My confidence was shot to hell. I was ready to hang up my Santa suit, but that confidence boost saved me, both personally and professionally.”

Cohen said he’s booked 40 Santa jobs this year. Last year, he scraped out a meagre handful.

“People didn’t want me,” he remembered, “and I didn’t have the confidence to go out looking for more Santa work.”

The best thing about his new teeth, Cohen said, is that no one knows he was toothless before.

“It’s funny, but one ever notices my teeth.” He said he feels like he fits in now and can smile and laugh along with kids and parents unencumbered.

Cohen said he’s doing so well that he already has several bookings for next fall.

“The Canucks Autism Network reached out to me and booked me for next year, too.”

Cohen said his bookings so far in 2020 start Oct. 15 and run up until Dec. 1.

This year he’s been booked for private photo shoots, parties, hospital visits, dinners, and he even opened a bakery in Cloverdale.

“My life has changed so much,” he said. “There is nothing holding me back now.”

Cohen can be booked through Out of the Rain Events (info@outoftherainevents.com).



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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Wendy Gaudet, director of City Care Dental, stands with Ben “Santa” Cohen. After some key dental work, Cohen went from being on the brink of having to hang up his Santa hat, to working more than 40 Santa gigs in 2019. (Photo: Malin Jordan)

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