Two busloads of people dedicated to making the holiday season a little bit brighter for needy kids took their mission to local establishments Saturday in an effort to raise more money, eat, drink and have some fun.
Consider the mission accomplished.
They raised a bunch of money, drank a bunch of beer and did indeed have a bunch of fun during the third annual Santa Fund Pub Crawl.
The two previous crawls filled a bus with donors. This year, there were two buses, and donors nearly doubled the funds raised last year, according to Crawl founder and organizer Michael Massery.
For a $35 donation, Crawlers got T-shirts, a bus ride to the five participating pubs: Mad Jack's and Thistle & Mirth in Pittsfield, Olde Heritage Tavern and Halpin's Grub & Grog in Lenox, and Moe's Tavern in Lee.
Both buses were stocked with bottled beer and snacks. The Crawl started at 2 p.m. One bus transported folks up to 35 years old, and the other hauled crawlers in the over-35 crowd.
During the bus rides, games were played and songs were sung. Prizes were awarded. At the pubs, there were more games and more songs. New friends were made, more donations solicited from other patrons at the pubs, and by the end of the Crawl, about $2,500 had been raised -- enough to buy toys for more than 50 kids.
When someone wondered why one of the Crawlers would sign on for the event, the answer was always the same -- it's for a good cause and it's
Several participants joined the Crawl because they have benefited from the Santa Fund in the past.
For Pat Maloney, it was more than 30 years ago when she was a single mother of two. Times were hard and she received some help from the Santa Fund.
"People don't realize how much it can mean when things are tough," she said. "It really made a difference. I always remembered that, and this year I wanted to do the same for another family."
Vinnie Marinaro, chairman of the Santa Fund and executive director of the Ralph J. Froio Senior Center in Pittsfield, tagged along for the ride.
He noted that there are hundreds of families in Berkshire County whose adults are either unemployed or under em ployed, many facing hunger and homelessness daily.
"We see them every day, but we don't know it -- so they're essentially invisible," Marinaro said. "But people are good at heart and really want to help, especially here in Berkshire County."
The Santa Fund takes the money raised and buys gift certificates for toys from Walmart and each qualifying family gets a $45 certificate for each child.
"It doesn't change the cycle of poverty, but it does brighten the holiday a little for these folks," Marinaro said. "It really means something."
Joseph Mucia, a Pittsfield native and attorney based in Plattsburg, N.Y., came back home to do the Crawl.
With beer in hand, standing near the pool table at Olde Heritage Tavern, he indicated his fellow Crawlers and pointed out their commonality.
"It's a good cause, and these are all good friends having a good time," Mucia said. "That's what this is all about."
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