In carrying out this research for and with RTBI I have heard and read many Christmas and Sleigh stories. “Sleigh” as it is fondly referred to is probably one of the most unifying factors across every one of the 300 plus local Tables. Traditionally this involves Table members dressing as Elves and escorting Santa Claus (the real one obviously) around the streets of their area in a beautifully decorated Sleigh. Children, families and pretty much everyone else come out of their houses to participate with many children getting close or on to the sleigh to tell Santa just what they are hoping for in their Christmas stocking.
Widely advertised and supported this event is a central part of Table and their communities up and down the country. Tablers carry buckets which are filled with donations that are in turn used to help other families or community members, buying Christmas presents for those without, or paying for events and activities in the following year.
There are variations, in some areas Santa has gone high tech with tracking devices and on-board cameras to let people know when the sleigh will be appearing, while more rural areas often have Santa being pulled by a Tractor - a double delight for many children! However, as COVID took hold in March 2020 it was clear that Christmas had to change.
So, in a manner that seems very “Table,” many areas tipped the idea on its head and looked for other ways to ignite the Christmas Spirit in those dark days and ensure a little magic was still available to families who were desperately in need of it. Hartlepool Round Table was one such example and they came up with two cracking ideas that brought some very much needed joy to both their members and members of their community.
Colm the current President of Hartlepool Round Table: “We were just sitting around talking about how sad it was not to be able to do what we normally do and naturally started chatting about what some alternatives might be. Not going to lie, some ideas were completely daft but the Christmas Calls and the Christmas Wishes just made sense.”
“For the Christmas Calls we just let parents know that they could book a virtual Santa Visit and organised a few simple details. The right time and link and remember to save the number as Santa! Parents took different approaches, some children knew they would get a call from Santa, some were expecting their grandma or some other regular call and were blown away when the camera came on and Santa was sitting waiting for them. But every single call was amazing. We did it over four different nights and the smiles on those kids faces were just brilliant. Of course, Santa knew their name, their place on the “Nice” list and just the sort of things they might be hoping for, which made it extra special.”
And while the Christmas Call was very much directed at children and families, the Christmas Wishes idea reached a little wider across the community. “We put out a notice on our Facebook page and other social media asking for nominations and suggestions, who deserves a Christmas Wish granting and what would that wish be?”
This was just a wonderful way to spread some joy and get lots of different people involved. And the amazing thing was that the wishes weren’t huge, it wasn't really about the money, it was about recognising someone, having people say “We See You” especially during some of those really difficult times. Of course, it included some special Christmas bikes for children who had been through a lot but it also included a washing machine for a local lady struggling without and who was also caring for others, we even managed to grant a small wish for one of our own Tablers, whose wife contacted us to let us know a little help was needed.”
What is great about this story and many other that have been shared is that it often is not about the money. RTBI clubs do make and distribute a great deal of money, which is fantastic and many of these stories explain the difference that the cash makes, but very often the impact and difference made is also about the Tablers’ ability to understand and respond to the community they are so clearly rooted in - the 2021-2022 Presidents Year of Office Motto was “Rooted in Community”. Ultimatley, it is about the connection and relationship they have with their communities and their ability to really “see” what is happening and to respond positively to it with their time, energy and commitment.
Round Table (RTBI) is a young man / men's club for those aged between 18 and 45. RTBI supports charities, the local community and its individual members through friendship and brotherhood. As part of the Round Table Family, RTBI is an inclusive organisation open to all individuals no matter their age or gender identification. To find out more visit our FAQs page or Contact Us.