Santa Ride

“What’s a Santa Ride?” I hear you ask. Well, gather round, and listen carefully…

T’was the night before Christmas… Well, no, it wasn’t. It was many months before Christmas when I realised that being stuck in hospital over Christmas is pretty rubbish, and even more so if you’re a kid. Now, while we can’t wave a magic wand and instantly heal kids of whatever may ail them, we can try to at least make Christmas a little less awful for kids stuck in hospital.

This is how the Plymouth Santa Ride was born. We’ve run it twice now, but obviously cancelled it for Christmas 2020, due to the COVID risk.
We’re cautiously optimistic that the ride will now go ahead for Christmas 2021, but that remains subject to review.

This post is purely to try and convince you to organise a Santa Ride where you live. The concept is simple: a bunch of people dress as Father Christmas, then cycle along a pre-agreed route to deliver presents to kids stuck in hospital over Christmas.

There are some important points to consider:

  • Speak to the hospital, and be guided by them. Above all else, it will be their decision if a 2021 Santa Ride would constitute too much of a COVID risk. They’re the medical experts, so their word goes.
  • Do not wrap any of the toys. Hospital staff are best placed to decide who receives which present, and for that to happen, they need to be able to see what it is.
  • Ensure presents span a range of ages. It’s not only young kids in hospital
  • No soft toys. I case you wonder why, remember, they’re going to a hospital, where hygiene is critically important. Ever tried wiping down a soft toy?
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When generating publicity for your Santa Ride, you’ll inevitably speak to the local newspaper. Local newspapers love to add irrelevant detail to their stories – “Mrs Brown, age 67, saw the aeroplane fly overhead”.
Please make it clear to the local rag that your name isn’t part of the story, and give them explicit instructions that they should only refer to “Santa” when mentioning people involved in the ride.

Alongside this, please let everyone on the ride know that, for the duration of the ride, they are all – men and women alike – known as Santa, and if anyone is asked what their name is, they should simply say “Santa”.

The Santa Ride is about the kids, not the riders, and we’re trying to maintain that focus.

From the outset, forget about taking the entire group up to the children’s ward. While people may have grand visions of eternally grateful, teary-eyed youngsters looking at them with complete adoration, as they’re dishing out presents, reality will intrude severely.

It’s a hospital ward, not a place for a potentially large group of people, possibly dripping wet (it often rains in December) to come traipsing through. At best, one, or perhaps two representatives of the group may get to go up to the ward, but most should accept they won’t be going onto the ward.
After all, the last thing we want to do is increase infection risks to kids in hospital!

I would suggest you start your ride somewhere central, where you can have high visibility of the riders all dressed as Santa, as that would raise the profile of the ride for the following year, and hopefully lead to increased donations of toys. It will help if you can find a friendly café who’s willing to serve as starting point, and toy donation point. As a bonus, that’s mean people don’t have to wait outside in the cold.

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You will need to devise a route that takes into account the fact you may have nervous cyclists along, who don’t normally ride on roads. Speak to your local Breeze Ride Leaders – they are an awesome bunch of people, and I’m sure some will be happy to help out with route design, and probably the ride itself, too.

Obviously, the Santa Ride doesn’t take place on Christmas Day. I suggest a Saturday morning around two to three weeks before Christmas day, so in case of severe weather, you can bump it over by a week.

Let’s hope the vaccination programme breaks COVID’s back, and that we can all have a great Santa Ride at Christmas. Just remember, don’t wait for others to act. This is up to you to make it happen! Go on – put a smile on some kids’ faces!

 

While you’re here, why not go have a look at my unique T-shirts? The designs are also available on hoodies, bags, face masks, mugs, and even baby clothes.

 

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