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Saturday, December 24 2016 23:58

Doing Good: Rock Father Santa Rides Again! (Delivering Toys in a Mitsubishi Outlander)

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A Special Thank You to Mitsubishi Motors & the DriveShop Chicago Office...

As I type these words, it is literally "the night before Christmas." Right now, at this very moment, the sounds of A Christmas Story can be heard emitting from the television in our family room. Both my wife and our youngest daughter are asleep on the couch (our oldest is finally asleep upstairs after a bit of Xmas Eve naughtiness), as the twinkle of lights has placed a magical, very comfortable vibe on the house. I finished prepping tomorrow's turkey, and now here I am - in my office, typing away while awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, and reflecting on what a busy holiday season this has been - one capping another busy year. While my family is always on my mind, tonight I'm also thinking of others, hoping that the third annual "Rock Father Santa" program was able to do some good. A few weeks back, our family hit the road once more, making our annual toy delivery in one of my favorite new vehicles serving as this year's "sleigh" - the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander. I know we've done good, but I can't help but think that we could've done better... and that bothers me.

#RockFatherSanta - 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Review

The Rock Father Santa program (detailed here) has become one of my crowning achievements since launching this website, and an initiative that I look forward to each fall - the opportunity to provide some gifts for local families who could use a hand. We focus our efforts on the Township, working directly with a case worker who identifies families in the five towns/villages that they serve, later contacting select parents to come in and pick out some presents after we've made our yearly drop. One of the greatest joys is being able to take our girls out shopping for gifts that will eventually end up with children that we'll never know - in many ways, very much like Santa.

#RockFatherSanta

A private effort, this is funded by our family, alongside donations of cash used for purchasing toys (which I'm able to stretch via discounts), in addition to some in-kind donations of product. With each year, my desire is always to go bigger (we nearly doubled between 2014 & 2015), but in terms of overall numbers, 2016 was smaller, and I won't know until mid-January just how many kids and families we were ultimately able to help. Getting contributions of any kind this year was unusually difficult, and I fear it may signal some rough times ahead. While I choose to focus our efforts on a hyper-local basis, word is that bigger, national organizations like Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army were down this year as well - with some locations down by 50%. Additionally, the "Giving Tree" at our oldest daughter's school still had tags left going into break (we bought for two children from it), while last year it was empty by the first week of December. Are less people giving? Or, do people simply have less to give? Whichever the case, I hope that it changes down the line.

By the Numbers - Children & Families helped through the #RockFatherSanta initiative: 2016 TBD;  2015 - 61 children from 24 families; 2014: 37 children from 13 families.

#RockFatherSanta

Fortunately, The Rock Daughters™ are unaware of the logistics of these things, so they were thrilled to have another opportunity to do some shopping for other kids. As usual, we made our short trip north of the border at into Wisconsin for a stop at the Mattel Toy Store in Wilmot, taking advantage of a 50% Off ticket for Black Friday weekend, making the money go farther to scoop up some fun gifts for girls and boys alike! 

#RockFatherSanta

As promised, our family rolled into the Township offices with a delivery on Cyber Monday, and much like Claus himself, we sped-off after the drop, with plans for 2017 already in our sights. It wasn't as big a delivery as I'd hoped, but the spirit of giving is shared with the girls, and hopefully the season is just a tiny bit brighter for some local families.

About our 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander "Sleigh" - Carrying on another part of our annual tradition, I like to do our annual toy shopping and delivery in a brand-new vehicle that serves as the four-wheeled "sleigh" for Rock Father Santa. This year I was happy to have the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander as it was a vehicle that I'd been wanting to get featured here on the site as a follow-up to some previous posts - an opportunity to give some much-deserved props to the crew at Mitsubishi for stepping things up quite a bit. Back in 2014 and 2015, I was critical of the Outlander series - not because of function (they were solid), but because of style. What happened is that in 2016 the Outlander got a refresh, and that's carried over into the 2017 model. They took a great base of performance, safety and technology, and finally wrapped it into a package that I find very attractive in both style and price.

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Review

Rockin' the 2.4L 4-cylinder this time around, the 2017 Outlander scores a combined fuel economy of 26 mpg (24 city/29 highway), while squeezing a ton of standard features into the S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control) package. The optional SEL Touring Package added about $4K to the model that I was driving, but it's a worthy expense considering those features include multi-view camera system, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert (which I love), a heated steering wheel and more. Also factor in that third-row seating is available (albeit, the folding variety), and the generous cargo capacity, and you have a very competitive crossover that's worth a serious look.

It's also a very smooth and quiet ride...

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Review

The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander starts at $23,495. As-driven, $32,390. Build and price yours at Mitsubishi Motors.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade as Publisher of The Rock Father Magazine, he joined Adventure Publishing Group as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider—a destination for all things pop culture. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 25 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, WGN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, BusinessWire, Babble, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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