"I made real good money one year, but I hate to charge people for it," he said. "I wouldn't give it up for nothing, just making kids happy."
McClain will also don his red suit for unconventional appearances. One year he handed out pay bonuses to his coworkers at the Clark County Public Schools bus garage, and he was once asked to throw the jump ball at a holiday basketball tournament, but it didn't work out.
He has even been hired to portray Santa parties for adults - without children.
"I've had good times doing it," he said. "I have to get a little bit crazier than I do around kids, but I do it all in fun."
When he isn't working as Santa, McClain is a bus driver for the Clark County Public Schools. He first got behind the wheel four years ago when he was laid off from his previous job.
He said he jokes, sings and laughs with the kids on his bus, and lets them talk to him when they are having problems; the elementary school kids on his morning route hug him when they get on the bus.
"There's some routes out there that are pretty rough," he said. "I've got a great route, I'm pretty thankful for that."
But the kids sometimes break his heart too, especially when he knows they are living in poverty.
"I have little kids on the bus right now that have asked me for gloves, and a lot of times I'll see them at Shop with a Cop, and they just light up," he said. "I told my wife, 'If I were a rich man, each one of these kids would have a brand new jacket.' I wish I could do a lot more for them, but I just can't."
McClain said just the presence of Santa makes kids "glow," and the less fortunate are even more appreciative when he shows up.
"Most of the kids don't have a lot," he said. "And that's something that makes my heart just pound, that I make that little child happy when I pat him on his head, or give him a hug."
McClain said most kids ask for gifts they would like in their stockings, but some ask for items for their younger siblings or their parents. Some even confront him because they didn't receive what they asked for the previous year, typically an unusual request for things like race cars, horses and houses.
One little girl sticks out in his mind as having the most upsetting request.
"She said, 'Would you please tell daddy to quit hitting my mommy,'" he said. "And that just went all over me."
McClain said his dream job would be to work with kids with drug and alcohol problems, or children with disabilities. He said he battled an addiction 20 years ago, and that experience would allow him to help young people facing the same. But McClain never went to college, and said he can't get a job in that field.
"I wish someone would just give me the chance, and I'd go to school and work at the same time," he said. "I'm not saying book learning doesn't mean anything, but I experienced it."
McClain is the father of a 16-year-old son, Ricky, who was just a baby in a snowsuit during that first parade appearance. It was the birth of his son that helped McClain love Christmas again, after his father passed away a few weeks before the holiday.
"My father was a big Christmas person, and it really bothered me around Christmas because that was the first thing in my mind," he said. "When my son was born, I really got back in the spirit because Christmas, to me, is about kids."
His family spends each Christmas morning together, opening presents, and maybe watching his favorite holiday movie, "A Christmas Story."
His wife, Melanie, is a big supporter of his part-time Santa gig, and she and their son volunteer for Shop with a Cop, too.
"She likes it, she really does," he said. "She's always there at the parade, in the same spot, waiting on me."
She even gets in on the act sometimes, helping Santa get around town.
"A lot of times I have to have her drive me around," he said. "It's kind of hard to drive and dress up as Santa Claus too."
McClain said he hopes to play Santa for another 15 years, and joked that he will be the first person to retire from the profession.
"There's a lot of times I say I'm not going to do it, and then I decide I want to," he said. "It's just such a joy to watch the kids smile and laugh and holler 'Santa' and 'I love you.' When you walk in, it's just a glow."