Since 2014, The Rock Father™ Santa Holiday Toy Delivery Program has been something that I’ve looked forward to every year. It’s an opportunity to give back to my community through a hyper-local, extremely focused effort to provide holiday gifts for the children of families that could use a hand. For our fourth annual run, I changed things up a little bit – reacting to a sub-par effort in 2016 (donations were way down) by starting preparations earlier. The ultimate goal is simple: to provide toys to as many local children and families as possible, as served by our local township. While there’s plenty of bigger organizations that do great work, I wanted our families’ efforts to have an impact on our immediate community – friends and neighbors that we may not really know, but people we may be crossing paths with every day. For Avon Township, which serves the villages of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Heights Grayslake, Hainesville & Third Lake, Illinois, a recent estimate was that 4,000 people were being served by Avon Cares Food Pantry each month. I have no idea how many children are in that number, but if I could help all of them, I would. This year, we provided gifts for 72 of them.
I believe that the holiday season should be a time of magic and wonder for all kids – and that every child should receive a present. So what I do is wrangle as many toys as I can, and then we work directly with a case worker at the Township who identifies families in the 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.
Leveraging this website along with my growing position in the toy industry, the amount of toys that arrive here each week for review and feature has grown, and that in itself has provided a key source for our donations. For anyone that’s every wondered if we keep all of the toys we feature on the site, that answer should be clear: NO. In addition to what you do see in my virtual pages, there’s a lot of extras, and through the Rock Father™ Santa Program they’re passed along to good homes.
We also buy a lot of toys to be donated, and this year we continued our tradition of visiting The Mattel Toy Store in Wilmot, Wisconsin to let The Rock Daughters pick out some new toys to be donated as well. We always do this on Black Friday weekend, when the first 100 customers each day get a 50% off coupon good toward regular-priced toys. It’s a fantastic way to stretch our dollars. We headed north in my “sleigh” for this season – a 2018 Mazda CX-9, graciously provided on loan from Mazda USA. The CX-9 is actually my favorite vehicle in the Mazda fleet, so revisiting it via the newest model was a treat – and the one I was driving couldn’t have been more perfect in “Soul Red Metallic.” With three-row seating, this SUV seats seven, but for this mission cargo capacity was key – and it delivered!
Following the Toy Store, we took a little detour to the Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, Illinois. As a family, we’ve never cut a live Christmas tree before, and while we still don’t use one inside, my wife has long-wished to put a live tree on our deck. This year, we made that happen, and it’s now going to be a yearly tradition.
Our girls were fascinated by the process of selecting, cutting, bundling and strapping a tree (I was, too!), and the vibe was as “Christmas” as Christmas can be. The spirit was infectious as families gathered in the barn for hot chocolate and fresh apple cider donuts, while a team of ladies worked tirelessly on crafting fresh wreaths and boughs. For me, I was overly cautious on strapping the tree. Not only had I never strapped a tree to my car before – this was not my car. It all worked out, and the family enjoyed the ride home in the sleek new sleigh, while I’m still thinking about the phenomenal sound of the 12-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® 2 Surround Sound System.
Back home, we got the tree set-up on the deck, and I prepared for my annual delivery. On Monday, November 27, 2017, I made my fourth-annual drop. It was the first time I did it solo – as the girls are now both in school. In the end, this year’s donation provided gifts for 72 children across 25 families – our biggest ever! That brings the four-year total to 194 children across 76 families! As 2017 winds-down, I’m already thinking about how 2018 can be even better.
Thanks to the following companies, all of whom contributed in one way or another to this year’s Rock Father Santa Program (some without even knowing it)! Hasbro, Mattel, Just Play, Zuru Toys, Funrise, Spin Master, JAKKS Pacific, Playmonster, Auldey Toys, Playmates Toys, Crayola, Fisher-Price, Meccano, Nintendo of America, Leapfrog, Jazwares, Walt Disney Studios, The Bridge Direct, Wonder Forge, Mega Construx, LEGO, K’NEX, The Pokemon Company, IAMElemental, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Super Impulse, KD Interactive, eOne, Aeromax Toys, Wicked Cool Toys, Disney Publishing Worldwide, Mazda USA, DriveShop, GameStop and The Toy Insider.