SUNDAY TRIBUNE: 14 NOVEMBER 2004
Driven demented by agonising attempts to get broadband, I took a long shot last week and sought help from Santa. Well it was either him or Saint Jude.
A couple of days later I got an email back from the North Pole asking me to ring him urgently. Sometimes a press card does come in handy.
As he's probably busy, I was sure he must have had good news. And he did. "I have to tell you about the great help I'm getting this Christmas from some righteous dudes in Ireland", he roared above the din of beavering elves.
"Santa", I enquired, "have you been on the... ?" "No, no, no. Nothing like that. Those good folks at Boards.ie are forming a Santa Strike Force to deliver presents to children in Ireland who need them".
"Strike Force?", I said, "isn't that a bit Gotham City for you Santa?"
He got a bit agitated at that. "Look, I'm very busy right now. Get on to DeVore at Boards.ie and tell him I sent you".
Dev who? I enquired. "Murphy... Tom Murphy", he replied. "He's the Rudolph on this project, and no it's not because he has a big red nose".
So I contacted Tom Murphy and dropped Santa's name. It worked like a charm and he unveiled his plans for this Christmas.
So what's all this about a Santa Strike Force Tom?
It's based on an idea I stole from an American website called www.penny-arcade.com which decided that there were more nice then naughty people out there and perhaps they might be willing to buy a few presents for sick kids at Christmas.
Well, there are a lot of nice people on Boards.ie too and I figured maybe the same thing could work here.
We collected money and asked people to buy books, toys and games from our Amazon.com wish list and they got shipped to me.
Then a bunch of us distributed the gifts to various childrens' charities just before Christmas. It's that easy. You buy with your credit card (or donate money) and we'll see that it gets there. You need never leave your office chair!
Last year the donations were made anonymously so that even the charities had no idea we were coming or who the gifts were from. They just turned up. (In keeping with the name, we're like the provisional wing of the elvish movement!)
So it's like hit-and-run charity then?
Yes. I wanted to do something nice for Christmas last year and I thought this was a good idea. Thankfully so did a load of mates who got stuck in and helped out. It wasn't supposed to be an annual thing but the response from the Boards.ie folks was so amazing it would be a shame not to do it again.
Is there a lot of work involved?
A lot more then I thought there would be! Thankfully there's a team behind it this year so we're better organised and I'm less stressed! We consciously didn't want to claim credit for the donations last year. However that proved to be a nice sentiment but fairly unworkable so we're unmasking ourselves.
I'm the originator and spokesperson for the idea but its gone far far beyond me now and if it weren't for the lads and ladies of Boards.ie we wouldn't be doing it again this year.
I can only imagine what the reaction must have been like when presents arrived into a hospital anonymously?
We got varying reactions but personally my favourite was Temple Street Children's hospital in Dublin.
It was the first hospital we hit and to mark the occasion three of us dressed in very convincing Matrix gear. Ankle length black leather coats, shades, boots, the whole nine yards.
When we arrived, the hospital was closed for the staff Christmas party! We couldn't believe it. We went looking for a side entrance and there were two security crash doors (the kind you see doctors barging through on ER).
For dramatic effect we barged through them with four big black canvas sports bags full of toys, games and a TV.
The security guard's face was priceless! We left him surrounded by GameBoys, Harry Potter novels and a PlayStation.
Weren't people wondering, suspicious even, about where the presents came from?
We left notes saying "you've been hit by the Santa Strike Force!" and occasionally watched from afar while they looked around for an explanation.
The funniest was the Barretstown Gang. I have always admired what they do there and I looked up their website and found their wish list.
They were looking for a secondhand computer and as it happened someone from Boards.ie had donated an entire, top-of-the-range computer, digital camera, DVD player and printer. The works.
We rang them and told them we were from 'SSF Deliveries Ltd' and arranged a time to drop it off. One of the other Strike leaders lives near them so he dropped it down. No explanation, no tracking bill and of course, no such company as SSF Deliveries!
We contacted them this year to see what we could do and Tim O'Dea mailed us and said that "the PC and equipment were a huge surprise and of great benefit to us - they rarely turn up on our doorstep! So rarely in fact our receptionist thought they were 'hot'!"
They are now using it as a digital photo centre.
Can anyone get involved? Or make donations or contributions? How?
Anyone can make a donation or contribution. Either by credit card or they can choose an item from our Amazon list and it will get shipped to me.
If you have a charity you want to nominate then you can contact us but be warned that you are very likely to become the liaison for that charity!
More info, links, lists, contact details, donation pages and updates can be found on www.santastrikeforce.com
Finally, I know a very deserving case of a poor, deprived lad who needs broadband?
Jaysus! Even Santa can't work miracles!