brave storm to help families in need
By Prudence Brighton, Sun Correspondent
Updated: 12/21/2008 06:41:05 AM EST
LOWELL -- The
weather outside was frightful when a small band of Santa's elves and
a brass quintet gathered at Cobblestones restaurant Friday night to
begin caroling through downtown.
The third annual Santa Night,
organized by Challenges Unlimited at Ironstone Farm of Andover, was
originally scheduled for Dec. 12, but the ice storm forced the week's
postponement. This time around, the group wasn't about to
let the season's first major snowstorm stop them from spreading the
In the past, the event raised
money for Ironstone Farm's programs that introduce disabled children
to riding horses as therapy. This year, however, the farm decided to
channel the money to the Lowell Wish Project.
Deedee O'Brien, executive
director of Ironstone Farm, attributed the change in focus to a recent
Sun article describing the challenges local charities, including the
Wish Project, are facing this holiday season. "Although Ironstone
also struggles for donated dollars, Lowell's Wish Project serves many
of the same families we do," she said. "And the need to help
them in this way, right now, is the urgent community need."
O'Brien and Donna Hunnewell,
executive director of the Wish Project, led a much smaller group of
carolers than originally expected. Where 40 elves had been anticipated,
only four braved the snowstorm. The other elves were Jim Heller and
Loraine Murtagh of the Wish Project.
Hunnewell acknowledged the
snowstorm would hurt
fundraising, but said the event would go on. She described Friday's
event as "a wonderful cooperative event between two agencies."
"It was a great time," she said.
The Nottingham Brass Quintet,
based in Hudson, N.H., gave the carolers much-needed musical support
during the evening. The musicians wanted to help the work of the Lowell
Wish Project, so they braved snow and slick roads.
Santa's elves and the quintet
warmed themselves at Cobblestones with food and beverages. Then they
began serenading the handful of customers who were hardy enough to brave
the storm with a rendition of "O, Holy Night."
Following a centuries-old custom,
the elves passed a hat (actually a plastic bucket) for donations as
they sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." In the Middle Ages,
traveling bands of carolers sometimes collected alms for the poor during
Among those who were the first
to enjoy the holiday music at Cobblestones were newly engaged Julie
Curtis of Stoneham and Dave Duquette of Lowell. Duquette popped the
question to a very surprised Curtis as they walked in the driving snow
from his downtown condominium to the restaurant. In between Christmas
carols, Curtis used her cell phone to share the good news with friends
The first stop after Cobblestones
was La Boniche, where Santa's Elves explained the mission of the Wish
Project and premiered a new version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
"On the 12th day of Christmas,
my true love gave to me, 12 yummy sofas, 11 packs of diapers, 10 loads
of bunk beds ..." they sang.
The Wish Project, located on
Foundry Street, is a warehouse where needy families, referred by an
appropriate organization or agency, can go for furniture, appliances,
kitchenware and clothing. They receive the donated goods for free.
The handful of diners at La
Boniche opened their wallets for the cause. Then the group headed down
Merrimack Street to the Blue Taleh and Hookslide Kelly's, making an
unscheduled stop at Etsogo's restaurant, where surprised management
welcomed them warmly.
The group planned to visit
14 restaurants and night spots, but adjusted the schedule as some establishments
Street - Andover, MA 01810 978-475-4056
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