As my wife and I raise two girls, we see the power and importance of play on a daily basis, something of a symbiotic relationship with my work on the fringes of the toy industry - and an element that fuels the desire to share that power with other families... particularly those in need.
While there are many National organizations that do some truly incredible and great things for so many, I'm a firm believer in the old saying that "charity begins at home" - or at least close to it. Given my size and reach as a work-from-home parent, I decided that the bulk of my Holiday Giving should be done in the local community, a place were it can have the most targeted impact for the families that we see every day - but wrapped in mystery similar to that of Kris Kringle himself. For a short time each year, I can be the "Rock Father Santa," delivering Holiday Toys to families who will never know where they came from.
In the Fall of 2014, the #RockFatherSanta program took shape, and after doing some digging on the local level, I decided that Avon Township would be the recipient of the Holiday Delivery, partnering with their case worker to identify families in the communities of Grayslake, Round Lake, Hainesville and Third Lake, Illinois that had received aid from the Township previously in the year, and could thus use some Holiday Cheer. I would do the legwork in purchasing the toys at great deals, stretching funds both personal and sponsored to maximize the donation. While I would deliver to the Township, the families would be invited to pick up the toys, free to gift them as they please, while Rock Father Santa would retreat into the shadows for another year. The first year helped 37 children in 15 families... the second helped 61 children across 24 families. See the full rundown on each year below...
2018 was a year of change across the toy industry and that directly affected access to product in the way it had been in prior years. Both Toys "R" Us and The Mattel Toy Store shuttered, ending our usual 50% off runs to Wisconsin to shop for additional toys to donate. Despite that, donations and our personal purchases led to the ability to help the biggest number of kids to-date: 82!
The folks at General Motors generously loaned us a 2019 Chevrolet Equinox to use in the holiday toy delivery run, and for a road trip to The Christmas Story House and Castle Noel in Ohio.
After soft support on donations in 2016, I shifted focus in 2017 to ensure we'd be able to help as many kids as possible. Leveraging my growing position in the toy industry and the increasing amount of product that comes in for review and feature, I began setting aside more items early-on, in addition to program-specific donations. As usual, my wife and I took The Rock Daughters to The Mattel Toy Store to purchase items, each leveraging a special 50% off coupon on Black Friday weekend to stretch our dollars.
Between the donated toys and the materials that we purchased, this year we provided gifts for 72 children across 25 families, making 2017 our most successful year EVER! On Monday, November 27, 2017, I loaded up my sleigh for the season - a 2018 Mazda CX-9 and headed for the Avon Township offices to make our delivery.
Like many organizations working to do good in 2016, external donations were unfortunately way down for the year. We rolled into Avon Township on Monday, November 28 with a 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander loaded with toys. This came following our usual Black Friday weekend run, in which The Rock Daughters were able to pick out and purchase toys at The Mattel Toy Store, all of which would be donated to other children. Read my column at The Toy Insider - Doing Good: Thinking Local for Holiday Giving. This year we provided gifts for 24 children across 12 families.
Read the full article about our 2016 Toy Delivery - Rock Father Santa Rides Again!
Like any good sequel, the second year for the #RockFatherSanta program was all about going "bigger." Hitting the road in a red, 2016 Chevy Equinox "sleigh" the week of the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and rolling through Thanksgiving weekend, the entire family took part in shopping for holiday toys for families in the local community. There was some pre-game shopping that took place at Toys "R" Us and Target with The Rock Daughters picking out some fun items, but Black Friday was once again the big day - another trip to the Mattel Toy Store in the pre-dawn hours to get that dollar-stretching 50% off ticket.
Again using a mix of funds both personal and sponsored, along with an in-kind product donation from The Step2 Company, The Rock Father upped the game, delivering toys to Avon Township that provided gifts for 61 children across 24 families.
For the first year of the #RockFatherSanta program, The Rock Father partnered with Chevrolet and OnStar to hit the streets in a red 2015 Chevy Impala "sleigh" to shop for holiday toys and other goods (such as warm pajamas) on Black Friday - shopping for deals to maximize and stretch funds provided by both The Rock Father himself, and the folks at GM. This included an early-morning stop at The Mattel Toy Store in Wilmot, Wisconsin to be one of the first 100 customers in-line to receive a ticket for an additional 50% off the already incredible factory-direct pricing.
After doing some legwork in the weeks prior to the event, The Rock Father Magazine decided upon Avon Township as being the recipient of the Holiday Delivery, partnering with their case worker to identify families in the communities of Grayslake, Round Lake, Hainseville and Third Lake, Illinois that could use some holiday cheer. In the end, The Rock Father's Holiday Delivery helped 37 children in 15 families, while allowing The Rock Daughters to take part in the initiative to learn the importance and joy of giving.
Get Involved: Contribute to the Rock Father Santa Holiday Toy Delivery