Every child deserves a toy for Christmas. Chicagoland Toys For Tots celebrated the 41st anniversary of their signature even this season, The Worlds Greatest Motorcycle Parade rolls up Western Ave from 83rd Street all the way to Addison. The 50,000 motorcyclists are welcome to join the 20 mile cruise provided they bring at least one toy to donate to the Marine Corp Reserve.
When Santa made a stop recently at parade headquarters, he was equipped with copious amounts of coffee + donuts for volunteers. I just wanted to know where he got his walking stick. The hand carved staff was something straight out of Lord of The Rings. It was a gift from an elf, the former Marine began as a recipient and now runs the Toys For Tots Center down in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Santa Express is a $1.3M Privo PostBus donated so the caravan could roll all in one vessel. Maintenance is free of charge for November and December. Attached to Santa’s wand are a pair gold plated leaves. On a trip to Anderson, Indiana he gifted a rehab specialist a holly reef on Christmas. Months later she used the leaves from that gift to create the ornament for Jolly St. Nick.
It was 41 degrees when the crew dropped in on kids at the warehouse, the elves rode their choppers that day it was so nice out. While kids are sitting on the big guy’s lap, we learn that much of Santa’s entourage dedicates their two-week vacation to spread cheer to those in need.
Schools with disability programs, homeless shelters, veterans hospitals, Salvation Army stores are all stops along weekly routes that start at 7am during peak season. When the entourage rolls into Northwestern Hospital’s Cancer Ward they have 6 buckets. If you want a picture taken, help fill those buckets with donations for charity. For the big run from Pilsen to downtown, Santa’s Elves are all US Marshalls, federally protected in case you wanna get crazy.
Even a scrooge like me is galvanized when we sit on the steps and go one on one with Santa after group photos. The guest of honor is a 32nd degree mason. At hospitals and family service center, the spirit is in the air when they arrive. Patients there for adoption proceedings or even pregnancy terminations are overwhelmed and decide to start a family when Kriss Kringle + company are in the building.
“Whenever I see a new born baby or a group of children, its telling this old guy that there’s still hope out here for the world. Otherwise he wouldn’t be letting people have children. “ What we have to do is give these kids hope Santa Claus is pro-choice, pro life and colorblind. All I see is children”.
The Santa Express makes stops from Huntley, Illinois up near the Wisconsin border, over to Northwest Indiana and all points in between. When you ask where Mrs. Claus is, Father Christmas responds ” Mrs. Claus is doing well, and doing what she damn well pleases. They run the show, they only let us think we do.”
Christmas isn’t typically my favourite holiday. But seeing it through the lens of giving has changed me this season.
-Reuter’s Bakery provided holiday cookies. The 92year old bakery is located Montclare on Chicago’s northwest side. at 7177 W Grand Ave
-Cheers to Stacy Swaw, Tom Dertz + Danielle Dertz for reminding me about the spirit of Christmas
You can start at 12. Come out on the entire seasonal route from beginning to end. In your second year you are inducted as an elf. You can pick your attire but the team gets to pick your name. ..that and you need to have 8 cavities.
Santa Express shouldn’t interfere w your school schedule, just go on the tour when you can. Whoever wants to join is more than welcome. Cavities don’t have to be filled, teeth will be pulled on the bus table.