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Friday, December 22 2017 14:22

Doing Good: The Rock Father Santa Returns, Delivering Holiday Toys for Christmas...

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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.

The Rock Father Santa

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.

therockfather1

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.

The Rock Daughters at The Mattel Toy Store 2017

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!

Tree Farm

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. 

Richardson Adventure Farm

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.

2018 Mazda CX-9

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.

The Rock Father Santa

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.

James Zahn

James Zahn is not a journalist, nor a blogger, though he may be credited as such by others, or even accept the title... depending on the circumstance.  Instead, he considers himself largely to be an "entertainment and lifestyle writer," bringing 25+ years of experience in the entertainment and publishing industries into the family realm as THE ROCK FATHER™.

As a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur, James now finds himself raising a pair young girls - The Rock Daughters™ - along with his wife from their Illinois home.

He is a member of The Toy Insider Parent Advisory Board, has contributed to The Toy Book and 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.

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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