A tornado’s devastation united this Camby Santa Claus to do good with other St. Nicks

When an EF-4 tornado tore through southern Indiana in 2012, extreme winds and flying debris destroyed homes and wreaked havoc across the area.

Families lost everything. In Henryville, schools bore the brunt of the damage among hundreds of buildings.

Among those impacted, children were the ones robbed of some innocence as the storm crushed towns. They needed a pick-me-up.

Christmas came in late March to those who needed it most. Toys, stuffed animals and games. Eight trailers of playthings to be exact.

The Indiana Santa Claus Society during a toy drive in 2012.

But who could have gathered these gifts? None other than Jolly Old Saint Nicks who live in yuletide spirit year round.

The twister’s rubble birthed the Indiana Santa Claus Society, an assembly of blushed cheeks, white beards and decades of hearing every child’s wish. Its founding helps children throughout the state.

Related: 10 years after devastating tornado, Henryville rebuilt but forever changed

Rick Parker also known as Santa Claus.

Longtime Santa Claus Rick Parker, who hangs his Kris Kringle hat in the Camby neighborhood of Indianapolis, said shared years donning the red suit united them but Henryville built their further purpose.

Parker remembered a quiet Henryville boy who looked at the piles of toys and only chose a small, Dalmatian dog. Parker left the room to dry his eyes. That's why they did it, he said.

The Hoosier Santas are all over Indiana, from Fort Wayne to Terre Haute. They have monthly meetings, share innumerable stories and host fundraisers. When they come to meetings, they bring toys to give away.

Toys collected by the Indiana Santa Claus Society.

Owen Davenport, president of the society and 29-year Santa veteran, said spreading joy to Hoosier children in need through toy drives is what they will strive to do.

With the latest devastation in Sullivan County, the society is one step ahead having been through this before. Donations will be handed out by the society in July.

Toys collected by the Indiana Santa Claus Society for children in Sullivan, Indiana. They will hand out the toys in July.

"Just to bring a smile back to the family and children means a whole lot to every one of us," Parker said.

It's what Christmas is all about.

Rachel Fradette is a suburban education reporter at IndyStar. Contact her at rfradette@indystar.com or follow her on Twitter at @Rachel_Fradette.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 317 Project: Tornado damage brought Camby Santa and St. Nicks' mission