Santa Pub Crawl canceled this year, but Operation Hope toy drive continues
What: 2020 Operation Hope Silent Auction and Toy Drive
When: Through Dec. 12
The holiday season will look very different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the lost wages and layoffs due to closing businesses and reduced working hours, more parents are worrying about how they will be able to buy presents for their children.
Santa Pub Crawl co-organizer Rachel Watts Sharwell, Downstairs co-owner Seth Hill, and Pete Stoughton, Christian Center of Park City director of programs, have them covered.
Although the Santa Pub Crawl that serves as a toy drive for the Christian Center’s Operation Hope program has been canceled this year, its partnership with Downstairs will allow the drive to continue through toy collection bins that have been set up around town, in addition to an online silent auction.
Operation Hope, now in its seventh year, sets up a store where parents of less-fortunate families can select toys, gifts, hats and other winter apparel for their children.
“The Christian Center has placed collection drop boxes all around town where people can donate an unwrapped new toy,” he said. “You can find these boxes at grocery stores, coffee shops and other businesses. People can also drop toys and donations off at the Christian Center.”
The toys can be for any age, because they will be for babies and toddlers to teens, Stoughton said.
“Over the past few years Operation Hope has grown to serve 700 families, and about 1,600 kids in Wasatch and Summit County,” he said. “This year alone, because of COVID, we’ve had 2,000 kid register from 800-plus families. So the need has grown monumentally.”
The drop boxes, along with posters that have been hung around the county, also sport a QR code that, when scanned, will connect people to the online auction site, 32auctions.com/operationhope2020.
Auction items include everything from skis to spa sessions to restaurant gift certificates and more, Hill said.
“Since Budweiser is one of the sponsors who pay for the auction, they have given us some unique items like Bud Light Skis, a Budweiser clock and a Budweiser table,” he said.
Hill was also astounded by the generosity of local businesses, which had their own challenges making ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They rallied and were still willing to give gift certificates,” he said. “We have some from No Name Saloon, Boneyard, Flanagan’s, and Draft, and we also have free stays at the Newpark Hotel and Park City Hotel.”
Other items will be added to the list as they come in, Watts Sharwell said.
“We are collecting items until the last day of the auction,” she said.
This year, people will also have the option to donate money without having to bid on any of the items, Hill said.
“We included a donate button on the site, so they can do that as well,” he said.
The idea to solely present an online auction came after Watts Sharwell and her Santa Pub Crawl co-founder Hilary Reiter decided not to host the crawl this year.
“Hilary and I talked about this back in the summer, and we knew by September that it would probably not happen,” Watts Sharwell said. “We wouldn’t want to be responsible for a massive COVID outbreak, and the Santa Pub Crawl attracts hundreds of people every year who gather in small venues up and down Main Street. We felt it wasn’t good timing.”
Luckily, the idea of an online auction had already been in place, Hill said.
“We debuted an online auction last year as an extra component to try to collect more toys and raise more money for Operation Hope,” he said. “That trial run last year prepped us so we could roll it out this year in a bigger fashion.”
The money will be used to buy more toys to add to the donations that the Christian Center will set up in a toy-store setting, Stoughton said.
“We want the parents to be able to pick out the gifts for the kids, and it’s great to have a wide array of toys to choose from,” he said. “We do this so the parents can take credit for the gifts they give to the kids, because parents know their kids better than anyone.”
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