By Karen Butler, Contributor
HARTFORD — Santa Claus has never been known to loiter around town, wandering from tavern to tavern. After all, he’s everything good and has important work at hand. However, when a few dozen noisy lads don Saint Nick’s signature red coat and cap and then raise a glass or two or more, they’re bound to be deemed a lil’ bit naughty. Still, they say, it’s all in fun and for a very good cause.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, the Hartford Wanderers rugby team will dress up as the jolly, fat man, and belly up to the bar for the 8th annual Santa Charity Pub Tour. The event, which will be held in Hartford, benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, and the fight against MS.
“Over the years we have had hundreds of Santas team up to help in the fight against multiple sclerosis,” said Kevin O’Connell, who organizes the annual holiday crawl. “We know our event is rather unconventional and, yes, perhaps even a bit rowdy at times, but at heart, we are a bunch of really nice guys for whom charity is a passion.”
O’Connell is a member of the Hartford Wanderers Rugby Club, which in addition to the Santa pub crawl also hosts a rugby tournament each summer to benefit MS. In 2006, the first Santa pub crawl took shape when members of the rugby team, clothed in Santa suits, caroled from tavern to tavern, spreading holiday cheer and goodwill. The event has grown in size every year since, with donations coming from the participating bars and the individual fundraising efforts of the Santa Claus collective.
“I have friends who are battling the effects of multiple sclerosis,” said O’Connell, who resides in West Hartford. “We have found a clever way to celebrate the season and an even more distinctive way to fundraise for a great cause.”
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents live with multiple sclerosis, a chronic and often disabling disease of the central nervous system. There currently is no cure. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
The crawl kicks off when the rogue Santas convene at the top of Pratt St. in Hartford. At the ringing of bells and with chants of “Ho! Ho! Ho!,” the Santas dash down Pratt street toward Trumbull street. Taverns and pubs include Vaughan’s Public House, McKinnon’s Irish Pub, Pig’s Eye Pub, City Steam and many more.
“The restaurants and pubs have been amazing to us,” said O’Connell, with a wink of an eye. “Each year they contribute generously to ensure a spot on Santa’s nice list.”
Funds raised through events, such as the Santa Charity Pub Tour, ensure ongoing scientific research to find a cause, new treatments and a cure for multiple sclerosis. The funds also provide for the continuation of vital programs and services offered by the chapter to those in Connecticut residents living with multiple sclerosis.
For more information on the Dec. 7 Santa Pub Crawl and a list of participating pubs and taverns, please contact Kevin O’Connell at 860-995-7206, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or look for the 8th Annual Santa Pub Crawl on Facebook.
To learn more about multiple sclerosis and the many ways to create your own National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, Do It Yourself event, please visit www.ctfightsMS.org.