From July 26th-28th, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Pyros group celebrated the tenth anniversary of their Christmas in July charity event. Raffles, Boy Scout troop food sales and a Toys for Tots collection were among the various ways the campground helped to raise money.
With a goal of raising $10,000 during the three-day event, Pyros president Mike Perlinski explained that the event used to be geared mainly toward getting toy donations for Toys for Tots, but as the years went by the group realized many people were more willing to give money. The first year saw $700 and 14 bags of toys, but last year Christmas in July brought in around $8,000 but with fewer toys. With a bigger focus on raising money, the event keeps getting bigger. “People find it easier to give you a dollar than go to Walmart,” said former Pyros president Rusty Chappo.
Local vendors showed their support by selling jewelry, food and sports jerseys. The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority Tour Mobile showed up to help spread the word about the event on their 30 Stops in 30 Days campaign. A long table outside the Ranger’s Station featured items up for raffle with winners chosen at the end of each night. Boy Scouts Troop 452 sold chips and sloppy joes to raise money for their troop as well as for Toys for Tots.
Pyro’s have raised over $50,000 during the event’s 10 years for American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE), Toys for Tots, Pediatric Oncology Patient Services (POPS), Ronald McDonald House and children of local disasters, such as a flood in Griffith a few years back.
Pyro’s has even been honored by the charities for their hard work. The group was invited to have lunch in Chicago with Ronald McDonald for their generous donations to the Ronald McDonald House.
On Saturday morning a motorcycle ride took place in which 28 bikers were escorted by police for a half-hour ride that went out of Jellystone and out by the lake before rounding back to the campground. The ride takes place every year, and although they’ve seen more motorcyclists participate in the past, the Pyro’s were very pleased with the turnout. According to Chappo, motorcyclists are very involved in Jellystone events.
“Bikers are the most giving people there [are]. They reach deep into their pocket, and they’re very generous,” said Chappo.
To bring in the Christmas spirit, many campers decorated their golf carts or camp lots with trees, garlands and Christmas lights. With the cool weather, people were able to Santa hats and Christmas sweaters. The Ranger’s Station featured an artificial tree and ornaments for sale. Santa and Mrs. Claus took pictures with children before handing out stockings filled with small toys.
Entertainment such as Christmas caroling, band 5 Guys Named Moe and cookie decorating will take place throughout the weekend.