LOWELL — Not all Santas wear red pants and coats, drive a sled pulled by eight reindeer or live at the North Pole.
Thousands of Greater Lowell Santas show up every holiday season to support The Sun Santa Fund, which provides holiday assistance to local families in the 23 communities served by The Sun.
In 1988, Lowell Sun Charities, which has been lending a holiday helping hand to local families since 1947, realized that local families were struggling to provide Christmas gifts for their children and to put a holiday meal on their table, and founded The Sun Santa Fund to address those needs. Since its founding, Sun Santa has provided more than $2.1 million to help local families celebrate Christmas.
Today’s Sun Santas wear pinstripe suits and scrubs, and range from the employees at Enterprise Bank to medical staff at Lowell General Hospital and first responders, politicians like state Rep. Jim Arciero and former state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau and city councilors, as well as people who care about making a magical Christmas morning for Merrimack Valley children and their families.
This is Nancy Roberts’ eighth year coordinating the holiday fundraising drive. Previously, she worked as a copy editor for the newspaper, so she is a person who knows how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in order to pull off the huge annual event.
She said the support from the Lowell community, public officials, local banks and businesses and countless individuals was heartwarming.
“We’re honored to be able to do this important work,” Roberts said. “There will be many little kids in Greater Lowell who will have the joy of waking up on Christmas morning with presents from Santa Claus thanks to our donors’ generosity and support.”
Last year, almost $300,000 was raised, said Lowell Sun Charities President Kevin Coughlin. Sun Santa was able to help more than 1,200 local families celebrate Christmas, and nearly 2,400 children opened presents from Santa on Christmas Day.
“The spirit of giving is a strong tradition in Greater Lowell,” Coughlin said. “The need for families is great each year. We are grateful to all the donors — individuals and corporations — who respond with compassion and generosity.”
The Salvation Army and Community Teamwork process the applications and distribute the gift and food vouchers to the families. Every family of need that files a Sun Santa application for help receives it.
After a two-year, pandemic-related hiatus, Enterprise Bank kicked off their in-house season of fundraising to benefit Sun Santa. The bank’s IT department swapped their tech caps for chef’s hats and hosted a Baked Potato Day lunch of baked russets and sweet potatoes with all the toppings. The day also included a selection of raffle prizes.
Lead Mail Clerk Mark Watson said the spuds were “a great start to this season’s successful fundraising campaign.”
Coughlin reflected on the generosity of Christmases past, present and even future.
“Every gift, big and small, goes directly to support Sun Santa’s efforts, Coughlin said. “We’re so very grateful.”
Here are some upcoming events:
Nov. 25-Dec. 6
Lowell General Hospital, one of Sun Santa’s largest champions, kicks off its Theme Basket Raffle. Basket viewing and raffle ticket sales run from Nov. 25 through Dec. 5. The public is invited to the in-person drawing Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 3 p.m., LGH Main Campus, 295 Varnum Ave. Attendance at the live drawing is not required. Winners will be notified. Ticket purchases and basket displays will be featured online only at lowellgeneral.org/sunsanta.
Sun Santa elves from Lowell High School will pass out treats during the City of Lights Parade in Downtown Lowell from 4 to 6 p.m.
Former state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos will host his 26th annual event to benefit Sun Santa at The Blue Shamrock, 105 Market St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a check made out to The Sun Santa Fund and/or a new, unwrapped toy for the It’s All About the Kids Foundation.
• State Rep. Jim Arciero, D-Westford, will host two events. The first one runs 10 a.m. to noon at Fusion Asian Cuisine, 355 Littleton Road, Westford. Please bring a check for Sun Santa and a nonperishable food item for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.
• Arciero will also host a second event from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Littleton Police headquarters, 500 Great Road. Attendees are asked to bring a check made out to The Sun Santa Fund and/or a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots.
The Polish American Veterans of Lowell and its Ladies Auxiliary will host their 14th Annual Christmas Party to benefit Sun Santa at the Polish National Home/Dom Polski, 10 Coburn St., Lowell, from 1 to 5 p.m. This year, the event is being held in honor of Robert “Bob” Jaracz. The day will feature raffles, music, food and a visit from Santa. $5 requested donation, children under age 5 admitted free of charge.
The folks of Westford Remembers/Team Forever Young will host their annual Dining for a Cause event at Evviva Trattoria in Westford from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The event includes gift basket raffles. A portion of the dinner and raffle proceeds benefits Sun Santa.
Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau will host his Third Annual Holiday Drive & Drop event at the Lowell Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, 657 Middlesex St., Lowell, from noon to 2 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring a check for The Sun Santa Fund and/or a new, unwrapped toy for local children.
Secure online donations can be made at lowellsun.com/sun-santa or by mail to The Sun Santa Fund, P.O. Box 2439, Lowell, MA 01851.