Every kid deserves a Christmas morning
Each family has their own holiday traditions that are special to them and looked forward to year after year. A local father and son turned their tradition into something even more meaningful.
For several years, Mark Carroll has been growing his beard in the months leading up to Christmas to play a convincing Santa Claus for the delight of family and friends. Last year, Mark and his son, Matt Carroll, wondered if they could do more, to extend that spirit of giving beyond their circle to benefit a good cause. Could they raise money to buy presents for children by asking people to sponsor some guys who are willing to grow beards? Matt ran the idea by a few friends who were enthusiastically behind it. And so, Santa’s Beards was born.
Pictured to the right is Mark Carroll, Justin Farrell, and Matt Carroll showing their beard progress for this year.
Headed by a motto of “Every kid deserves a Christmas morning,” Santa’s Beards collects donations to buy gifts to distribute to children in need during the holiday season. During their first year in 2019, Mark and Matt partnered with their church and the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH). A visit by Santa Claus raised the level of merriment further. Though he’s seen his father in action many times, Matt is impressed by the questions Santa asks and the connection he makes with the kids. After the first year’s success, Matt briefly wondered what he’d started.
“I was surprised,” he said, “I didn’t expect everyone to be so on-board and excited for the next year.” There was no question that Santa’s Beards would continue their mission.
This year looks to be an even greater success. Two new recruits joined “Santa’s Army” (the beard-growers) this year, and beard-growing officially kicked off on Sept. 1. Photo updates showing each member’s progress are posted on the Santa’s Beards Facebook page at monthly intervals, so sponsors can see that the bargain is being honored.
When asked how the members of the “Army” felt about not shaving for a few months, Matt gave assurance that they were all good sports about it, but “the real unsung heroes are the girlfriends and wives who are willing to put up with it.”
For this, their second year, it was agreed that their full support would go toward UMCH. Matt explained, “We always knew we wanted to support the Children’s Hospital.” Although adjustments will be made to how the gifts are distributed due to COVID-19 restrictions, and Santa cannot greet the youngsters in person, Matt is working with UMCH to create a joyful experience.
Pictured to the left is Santa's delivery to UMCH in December 2019.
It is not only the children who receive something special; Santa’s Beards also purchases items requested by the caregivers to help make the children’s experience easier. Last year they provided 24 “comfort backpacks” for patients on the children’s psychiatry unit. Filled with essential travel-sized toiletries, activity books, coloring books and crayons, these backpacks help to ease the transition for those moving into foster care and give them something to call their own, but more importantly, show them that others care.
Yet, there’s more behind the Carrolls’ motivation. Matt noted that he was born and raised in Baltimore, and his family wants to show Baltimore in a positive light to counter the negative news and impressions that are so often circulated. He credits “the good people of Baltimore” with being the real force behind all they’ve been able to accomplish.
When asked to identify what has meant the most from this philanthropic journey, his answer was no surprise. “The delivery of presents, the way the kids’ faces light up.” And the faces of everyone else on hand to witness the giving spirit, without doubt.
Dec. 15 is the deadline to make a donation to Santa’s Beards for this holiday season. Starting Thursday, Dec. 10, they will begin a countdown to final donations and post the latest photos of Santa’s Army’s beard progress. Please visit Santa’s Beards on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SantasBeards.