Three hours into a four-hour photo session with RAD Santa, all 60 toys and Christmas gifts earmarked for sick kids at Canuck Place were sold out.
It was an “amazing night,” said Chris Ruscheinski, one of the organizers of the annual RAD Santa event at Potters nurseries late last week.
This was the fourth year running that Langley twins Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski – of Twins Cancer Fundraising and Gone Country fame – hosted this charity event in conjunction with Potters. And for a few hours the already magical Christmas-themed garden facility on the Langley-Surrey border became a little more Christmasy.
“If that’s even possible,” Chris said.
There were about 750 to 800 photos taken that night. But this time it wasn’t all with ol’ St. Nick, Chris explained.
“Santa, of course, is always the highlight,” he elaborated. But a new picture-taking area featuring the Grinch also proved popular and helped the twins surpass their $10,000 fundraising goal. All photos were taken for a donation to the cause.
In addition to those donations collected in exchange for photos, ahead of the event the Ruscheinski brothers also receive a Christmas wishlist from the kids at the children’s hospice in Abbotsford. They go out shopping for each item on the list. Those gifts, ranging in price from $10 to $200, are then put on display with a price tags, and they can be purchased by RAD Santa patrons.
Once again this year, all the toys were sold out three-quarters of the way through the night, Chris said.
Last year’s event raised a total of $7,310 for the children’s hospice in Abbotsford. This year, thanks to an additional $3,500 donation from Potters, the one-night event raised $10,500, Chris boasted.
On top of surpassing the 2019 fundraising goal, there was a larger crowd than ever before, too. Chris estimated between 500 to 600 people came out this year – that’s a 30-per-cent jump. And he said the one-hour session for pet pics with Santa saw the number of visiting dogs double and he even spotted a cat getting its picture taken with Santa.
Guests responded well to a numbering system introduced for those waiting to visit with RAD Santa. Instead of waiting in a long line outside, guests were given a number as they arrived and encouraged to stay warm inside while they shopped and/or visited a series of new interactive stations scattered throughout the store.
Chris’ young daughter Scottie Rae, and her cousins, Iver and Nova, were admittedly among the first in line for picture taking. But the new dad reluctantly admitted that their RAD Santa didn’t seem so RAD through his infant’s eyes.
“She doesn’t love Santa. Not yet. She cried pretty hard,” Dad said, noting it didn’t make for the best photos.
“It’s not what we call her cute face,” he added with a chuckle.
Ideas are already being tossed around for RAD Santa 2020, and Chris said he’s hopeful they can do it all again next year for that he described as an “incredibly worthwhile cause.”
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