HOUSTON --He has brought smiles to the faces of little ones for years, and now the man known as "Pancho Claus" is in need of a little holiday spirit himself. Richard Reyes is in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, and Eyewitness News stopped by to talk to the iconic Houstonian. Despite having an operation to clear a blockage from his heart, Reyes is in great spirits. What is even more amazing is that -- as he sits in a hospital bed -- his mind is still on the kids he helps. For 28 years, he has brought joy to local children and parents. "He's very popular," mother Raina Zamora said. "Every child you would go up to, they know about it. It puts a glow in their eyes when you said the word, 'Pancho Claus.'" But now, Pancho Claus spends his evenings in a hospital bed. The Houston icon known for his trademark sunglasses and hat rests in a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack Thursday night at a movie. "I got up for popcorn and candies, and was watching '2012,'" Reyes said. "(You think), 'Oh my God, it's the end of the world -- it's the end of me.'" Reyes -- aka Pancho Claus -- is best known in the Barrio, where he can be seen driving around in his low-rider cars, passing out candy and toys. Constable Victor Trevino has worked with Reyes for years, and he said the impact has been huge. "Some of the parents going through difficult times -- economic hard times -- he would bring them toys and candy," Trevino said. One parent was literally brought to tears when she heard of his condition. "I hope with all my heart he gets better, because the kids are waiting for him," she said. Doctors tell Reyes he will be back on his feet in a few days, and not a moment too soon for him: this is the height of the time he raises donations for the children. "I am a little concerned about the toys," he said, "because that is the most important concept of Pancho Claus is the toys." He is committed to still making his scheduled appearances, including the upcoming Thanksgiving Day parade -- for which parents are glad to hear. "It would be nowhere near the same without him," Zamora said. "Feliz Navidad todos. If you have one, alright," Reyes said. Although his doctors have given him a good prognosis, Reyes said he may have to scale back his schedule. Nonetheless, he said he is committed to doing as much as he can for the community as he gets better.
If you want to help with toys to give to children who usually get them from Pancho Claus, you can drop them off at Warehouse on 1406 Hays Street in Houston or call 713-385-4267.