Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.
Having made my list and checked it twice, I circled the globe on December 24th delivering gifts to roughly 22 million children an hour to make sure the nearly 526 million children worldwide, who celebrate Christmas on December 25th had gifts under their trees when they awoke Christmas Day morning, but it was me who received the best gift of all as I participated in the 4th Annual Christmas Day Walk/Run to Benefit the House of Mercy in Rochester NY.
Ok, so I’m not REALLY Santa Claus – I don’t live at the North Pole or have a shiny red sleigh or 9 magical reindeer. My belly’s not THAT big and my beard’s not THAT white. I do, however, get to play Santa each year for this event. The preparation does start many months in advance, and I do have a team full of “elves” that help me prepare and bring gifts and holiday cheer to those less fortunate in our community as we deliver them to the House of Mercy homeless shelter at the conclusion of our run each year.
Copyright 2017 Democrat and Chronicle
2017 was the 4th year for the event, which benefits the House of Mercy homeless shelter (http://houseofmercyrochester.org). The run started in 2014 when runners passed through “Tent City, Sanctuary Village” during a local race and saw first-hand the scope of homelessness in the community they called home. Six runners collected clothing and money that was delivered to the shelter that first year. The run grew to 12-15 runners in year two and attracted around 40 last year. Just shy of 70 walkers and runners registered for the event this year, which saw the course shortened to almost exactly a 5k (3.1 miles) due to the shelter moving into a new location.
The particulars of the run itself become increasingly less significant as each year’s event continues to outshine those of years past. Though seeing Santa Claus running down East Avenue behind a parade of reindeer and elves on Christmas Day morning is a spectacle of sorts, the run itself just marks the culmination and delivery of the gifts and generosity given by so many in the Rochester NY community.
Each year outshines the previous year, and the impact we have on this wonderful organization grows with the size of the event thanks to so many in the community. Fleet Feet Sports Rochester (http://www.fleetfeetrochester.com) has been a supporter of the event since its inception. Fleet Feet Sports, Rochester Running Company (http://rochesterrunningco.com) and Medved Running & Walking (http://www.medvedrunwalk.com) not only helped to promote the event, but also collected clothing, food, toys and money at their locations in the weeks leading up to the event. Thank you to each and every one of you.
Thanks to so many selfless, caring individuals dropping off new, unopened toys to these locations, we were again able to put a significant dent in the estimated 2,000+ toys that the shelter planned on handing out this past holiday season. Though toy drop off day has always held a special place in my heart, this year’s event blew me away. Amiel’s Sub Shops (http://amiels.com) stepped up and offered to feed the entire homeless shelter the day of our drop off, providing around 8 sub trays, 4 cookie trays, several cases of potato chips and water – enough food to feed more than 150 hungry individuals at the shelter that evening. Team RWB Rochester (https://www.teamrwb.org/chapter/team-rwb-rochester-ny) volunteered to help deliver all of the toys and food and then put on the gloves and hairnets to serve the folks the meals that Amiel’s provided. It was a truly heartwarming experience and I thank both Amiel’s and Team RWB Rochester for your support.
Fleet Feet Sports, Rochester Running Company, Crazy Dog T-Shirts (https://www.crazydogtshirts.com), Amiel’s Sub Shops, Byrne Dairy (https://www.byrnedairy.com) and Sugary Delights Gourmet Cotton Candy (http://www.sugarydelightscc.com) all chipped in to cover the cost of thanking all participants in this year’s event with a long sleeved t-shirt, and KAKOBeauty provided each participant a tube of their lotion. I thank each and every one of these businesses for supporting the event and helping me thank all who showed up on Christmas Day morning with a small token of appreciation.
At the conclusion of our walk/run itself, carload after carload after carload were unloaded. Our local AmVets Thrift Store (https://www.supportthevets.org) in Henrietta donated a pallets worth of clothing which was dropped off. Our friends at KAKOBeauty donated 12 cases of their lotion to the shelter. Wegman’s (https://www.wegmans.com) provided the shelter with a giftcard. Our walkers and runners cleaned out their closets and brought bag after bag after bag of clothing, shoes, coats, hats and gloves and boots. They brought food. They brought almost $400 which was given to the shelter. But most importantly they brought holiday cheer and hope to those inside the shelter on Christmas morning as we stood singing Christmas carols with the residents, and for that I am eternally grateful.
The word thank you is not enough no matter how many times I say it. In all honesty there are no words I can say to express my appreciation or gratitude to all of the businesses and individuals who make this annual event so successful and special each year. This run truly exhibits the spirit of the holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate. We have created a holiday tradition that we can all be proud of, one that truly impacts lives here in the Rochester community and the fact that on one of the busiest days of the year, with so much going on, so many of you took the time on a snowy cold morning to make this run and its cause a priority speaks volumes. This event is the gift I most look forward to every year, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to support it.