For many, the spirit of “Claus” is held within, a shining light that burns with the desire to do for others, particularly for those less fortunate.
As someone who's always been Christmas-obsessed, parenthood has given me the opportunity to “be the Claus” for our girls, but there's always been a desire to go further, and this year my friends at General Motors and OnStar came together with me on a plan to help make that happen in a big way. On Black Friday, we put a new spin on shopping for deals and turned the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season into a day to do some shopping for good.
With my wife and daughters settled in for a long pre-winter's nap, I donned my red cap and prepared to hit the road under the cover of night - not in The Rock Father's Suburban Assault VehicleTM (an over-dramatic way of saying “my black Chevy Equinox”), but in a Crystal Red 2015 Chevrolet Impala “Sleigh” equipped with the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot and a 3.6L V6 engine offering 305 reindeerpower of awesome.
After starting the car from the comfort of home thanks to the OnStar RemoteLink App, I jumped into the already-cozy ride with my tablet and smartphone paired-up and my mobile office ready to rock. Armed with $500, I was aiming to stretch those dollars as far as I could with hopes that I'd #FillTheImpala and be able to deliver some holiday cheer to as many local families as possible
I started in Northern Illinois, hitting Walmart for toys and pajamas. I scored some Hot Wheels “Holiday Hot Rods” alongside classic games like Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders, some JAKKS Pacific Tinker Bell dolls from Disney Fairies and puzzle sets featuring SOFIA THE FIRST and FROZEN. In the clothing department, I grabbed two-piece fleece pjs in an assortment of sizes, each featuring prints of this year's most popular characters.
From there, I headed toward Toys “R” Us, scoring great deals on some You & Me baby dolls and carriers, more classic games like Cootie and Memory, some STAR WARS Hot Wheels, and some of the latest action figures from Hasbro's STAR WARS REBELS collection. A good start to my journey, indeed – but it was time to unleash the biggest part of the plan.
To really stretch my dollars, I'd called my friends at The Mattel Toy Store in Wisconsin. While they've long had some great deals and charitable programs, Black Friday was offering something even bigger – a chance to score 50% off regular prices, and this was alongside some other surprise deals of the day. If I was really going to #FillTheImpala, a trip across the border was going to be in order, and I had to get there early to be one of the first 100 customers in line to make it happen.
After stopping for coffee and double-checking some sales flyers from the tablet connected to the OnStar 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, I entered my next destination in the Chevrolet MyLink Navigation and was off.
At 7am, I pulled up and hopped in line for the 8am opening at the one stop that wasn't a part of my gifting plan, but an important one for a music lover like myself. As an extension of April's annual Record Store Day (an initiative to lend support to independent record stores around the country), Record Store Day Black Friday has become a new event in itself, with special new releases being offered exclusively through these small businesses... on vinyl. At 8am the doors of Vinyl Frontier Records were open, and by 8:10 I was back in the Impala, rockin' a new stack of wax including the first single from FAITH NO MORE in 17 years, a PRONG record I missed back in April, and for my girls – a 7” “FROZEN Holiday” picture disc (watch this video of my girls enjoying it) featuring Olaf and two songs from the now-iconic Disney film, “In Summer” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” No, the 2015 Impala will not play vinyl records, but with MyLink technology it's easy to stream from a Bluetooth device, and there's plenty of music available via the in-dash CD player, streaming via Pandora or the always-excellent SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Liquid Metal is a favorite of mine).
From there it was time to head north, and by 8:58 I was in Wilmot, Wisconsin, taking my place in line as part of the “first 100” - a group of eager shoppers braving the cold to stretch some dollars. After receiving my ticket (I was #38) and a cup of coffee and a donut from the nice folks at Mattel, the doors opened at 10am and it was time to really make this happen...
MONSTER HIGH dolls, JAKE AND THE NEVER LAND PIRATES figures and guitars; Disney-Pixar CARS and PLANES FIRE & RESCUE playsets; MONSTER JAM Monster Trucks; SOFIA THE FIRST dolls; LITTLE PEOPLE playsets; WWE Action Figures; MEGA BLOKS Building Sets; Barbie dolls; TOY STORY action figures; THOMAS & FRIENDS train sets; Fisher-Price learning and role-play sets; more Hot Wheels and a lot of love, my mission to #FillTheImpala was complete, with my combined haul stretching $500 into nearly $1300 worth of toys and clothes, the trunk and back seats fully-loaded.
But the story was not over...
On Monday, with my oldest off at kindergarten, my youngest and I re-loaded the Impala and set off to make some deliveries. Like a Rock & Roll Santa Claus and Santa's Little Helper, we swung by the school to make sure the giving tree had been filled (it was), and then headed toward the Avon Township offices. There, Little Finley and I delivered the goodies to a case worker for distribution to families in the towns of Grayslake, Hainesville, Long Lake, Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights, Round Lake Park and Third Lake, Illinois.
I might be mistaken, but for a brief moment as my daughter and I were heading home, I could've sworn that I saw a familiar-looking fellow with a large white beard driving behind us and giving a “thumbs-up” as I glanced into my rear-view.
Ho, Ho, Ho!