51st annual Santa’s Helpers program airs Sunday, Dec. 12

SAINT ANDREWS – On Sunday, Dec. 12, viewers can tune into CHCO TV from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and watch some 51 years of history in action.

Santa’s Helpers is a long running fundraising program, hosted by the St. Stephen/Milltown Lions Club as an annual radiothon until 2019, when the group had to bow out after 48 years due to a declining and aging volunteer base.

“We don’t have the energy and the numbers to do it anymore,” said a visibly disappointed Bob Brown in an interview with the Courier in September, 2019. He and fellow St. Stephen/Milltown Lions Club member, Ron Goodine had come to the Courier offices to deliver the news.

“You want to do a quality program,” said Goodine. “And after having it done for 48 years, we don’t feel that we should lessen our expectations, and we would be.”

The Santa’s Helper program was a five hour live broadcast, thanks to the assistance of WQDY/WALZ radio station, held annually in the auditorium of the St. Stephen Middle School. Over the decades, the event has raised literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community at a time when need is most keenly felt; Christmas.

The news hit the region fast and hard; but the program wasn’t destined to be over.

“The leadership certainly came from Andrew Giddens,” said Brad Henderson on how the decision was made to pick-up the torch from the Lions Club and keep the Santa’s Helpers program alive. “But at the end of the day, it was the next generation coming together to realize not doing anything wasn’t an option.”

That next generation includes a long list of local residents, including Henderson, Giddens, Vicki Hogarth, Patrick Watt, Natasha Reid, Christina Henderson, Don McGee, Linda McGee, Stephany Welshman, Gwen Borthwick, Dan Jamer, and Tyler Mann.

“Families depend on this program, and energy comes from the belief that every child in our region deserves a Christmas,” he added.

In stepping-up to keep the program going, those involved also created a new look for Santa’s Helpers. The event went from a radio broadcast to a television one with the help of Saint Andrews television station, CHCO TV.

We love to step-up to the plate for our community in any way we can,” said CHCO’s Hogarth. “So when Andrew Giddens approached us to make Santa’s Helpers a televised event a few years ago, we didn’t even hesitate to get involved. It was an immediate ‘yes’ from us.

“A televised event allows families to send the online link to relatives and friends who live in other parts of Canada and the world, and also provides a memento for memory books that families can look back on years later when their kids grow-up,” said Hogarth. The program will also be live streamed on the CHCO TV YouTube channel.

“We always repackage the live program after the holidays as a Christmas TV special as well,” said Hogarth.

“I have to give major props to CHCO’s station manager Patrick Watt, who spends a good portion on November travelling around Charlotte County pre-recording school choir performances. He does an amazing job and really makes the kids’ performances look amazing,” she added.

This year, Henderson said viewers can expect to see performances from Campobello Consolidated School, Lawrence Station Elementary School, Milltown Elementary School, St. Stephen Elementary School, and Vincent Massey Elementary School.

“With the pandemic preventing public school concerts, it gives communities and our region an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit with youth across Charlotte County,” said Henderson.

“If this wasn’t reason enough, the primary goal of the event is to help provide Christmas to Charlotte County families in need,” he added.

“Viewers can expect three hours of children’s choir performances from all across Charlotte County,” said Hogarth.

“I’m excited to be co-hosting the live event once again this year with Andrew Giddens. The rest of the Santa’s Helpers team will be in the CHCO studio answering donation phone calls and reading the names of generous donors live on TV.

“It really kicks of Christmas for Charlotte County and is a good reminder of what the holiday season is all about.”

And Hogarth and Henderson are right; Santa’s Helpers embodies the true spirit of the holiday season; helping others.

“Last year, 336 kids in Charlotte County were supported through this program,” said Henderson.

“The funds are distributed directly to families in need through gift cards to provide Christmas in partnership/qualification with local food banks.”

There are lots of ways to donate to the program. Viewers can call 506-529-8826 on December 12 during the broadcast, or anytime by sending an etransfer to santashelpers@chco.tv