Want to make the upcoming holiday season extra special and meaningful? Start it off on the right foot—two feet, actually—at the Salvation Army Santa Shuffle. The popular community run/walk is slated for Saturday, December 5, and registration is now open. Once you sign up online at santashuffle.ca, you can create a profile that allows people to support you directly with messages and donations.
There’s plenty of incentive to get your family, office group, club or sports team involved. Consider what a difference just $50 in pledges can make:
The Salvation Army’s Bethany Hope Centre supports young parents and their children. At this address on Woodroffe Avenue, $50 will:
- provide eight families with four litres of milk for a week
- cover the cost of a hot meal for 20 children
- buy 200 diapers
- pay for three pairs of gym shoes for school-aged children
The Santa Shuffle is a feel-good event in a lot of ways. Not only is it a fun occasion with participants dressed in Christmas costumes, “it’s also about sharing, fellowship and friendship,” notes John Stanton, the CEO and founder of The Running Room. “Magical” is the word he uses to describe it.
Launched in Edmonton in 1990, the annual event has spread to 41 communities across the country and it’s one of the biggest annual fundraisers for The Salvation Army. It’s always on the first Saturday of December and the Ottawa event, which had previously been held at Tunney’s Pasture, is at Lansdowne Park this year. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. in the horticulture building on site and start times are 10 a.m. for the one-kilometre elf walk, and 10:30 a.m. for the five-kilometre run.
Participants in festive attire will head out to travel along Queen Elizabeth Drive. And the money they’ve raised will support local Salvation Army programs and services during a season when people often struggle financially.
“The Santa Shuffle comes at a time when there is a big need in our communities,” John points out, adding, “The Salvation Army helps everyone without question including the homeless, low-income families and those facing disasters.”
Organizers here are hoping the new location at Lansdowne Park will inspire local businesses to get involved. The festive activity can serve as a great business team-building activity, says Salvation Army event coordinator Tammy Kohls. “Employees can bring their families too.”
An estimated 1500 people are expected to show up with bells on—along with Santa hats, elf costumes, tree decorations and other holiday garb. However, one participant always stands out in this crowd. Every year, Louis Lacelle plays Santa and leads families on the elf walk.
“I love to see the kids participating,” he says. “It’s just so nice to interact with them, give them High Fives and build their confidence. I really enjoy that.” He also appreciates the significance of this community fundraiser. “There are families in great need and we need to support organizations like the Salvation Army.”
Louis is “really pumped” about the new location too. “Lansdowne is community-based and having Santa Shuffle there will draw more awareness and bring even more people out.”
For Margo Babe, the annual event is a family affair. “We are a family of six and we all come with our Santa hats on,” she says. “We like the idea of supporting the Salvation Army, and because it’s at Christmastime it makes it fun.” She also likes the fact that the outdoor activity is accessible and suitable for all ages. “We have a little guy with us who is only five and one family member with special needs.”
Highlights of the schedule include Star Wars and princess mascots on the elf walk, music by Hot 89.9’s street team, a craft corner organized by the Ottawa Art Gallery, and free hot chocolate served by the Salvation Army canteen. Helpers from Good Life Fitness will lead a pre-event warm-up and Zoomphoto will take free photos of participants as they cross the finish line.
Tammy says partners and volunteers help make all this possible. Last year, one of those volunteers was Karen Brown, who helped out with registration and also participated in the run. “It’s a really good event for inexperienced runners like myself,” she mentions, “and it’s for a really good cause.”
Volunteers from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business have also supported the Santa Shuffle. Sprott graduate Henry Woo says students want to volunteer each year because it’s fun and it provides team-building and personal development opportunities.
“The atmosphere and the people involved in the event are why we keep coming back,” he says. To volunteer, call Tammy Kohls at 613 233-8428 extension 221. To register, see www.santashuffle.ca.
Text provided by Caroline Franks, public relations specialist for the Salvation Army