Suddenly pandemonium fills the ballroom of Windsor’s Moose Lodge 1499 on Tecumseh Road West. Without warning, during Sunday’s Toys 4 Tots fundraiser, famous Disney characters Mickey Mouse and his pal Goofy appear. Intriguingly the pair caused more commotion than the arrival of Mr. Claus himself. But it is not only the children, it is almost all of the adults who excitedly welcomed them. With wide smiles, they lined up on the left, the right and centre to take selfies with the two distinguished American celebrities.
Event coordinator Amy Renaud was also smiling. Halfway through catering to some 400 guests for supper, it was clear the money raised would be a latter day record. This is good. More kids in need will be gifted with a present this year. As the night progressed donations, a 50-50 draw and a prize draw were pushing the total closer to $5,000 dollars.
Six local bands – The Doo Wop Heartbreakers, The Van Lares, The 519 Band, British Beat 66, The Smokin’ Purple Monkey Gang & The Mixx – took to the stage in one hour sets. For more years than some can remember, Michael Hereford of British Beat 66, has worked tirelessly to bring the city’s best bands to the Moose. His organization skills were well evident. To keep the music flowing, Long and McQuade’s Windsor store had provided shared instruments. Without having to set up their own equipment, the delay between sets was minimized.
All six of the acts are busy these days. Eyes on Windsor talked with some and learned The Smokin’ Purple Monkey Gang is touring around the region while laying down new material for an extended play expected to be released this summer. Windsor’s famed blues group, the 519 Band, is also in the studio working on some Christmas songs, including one mentioning the local distilling industry. Its legion of fans should hear more about the results shortly.
British Beat 66 continues to chalk up miles playing at sites in Canada and the US and has become a popular attraction at Caesar’s Windsor’s Cosmos Lounge. For the Van Lares, Debbs Van Lare says her effort is focused almost entirely on benefits like Toys 4 Tots. It is the band’s way to give back to the community.
All bands were playing their hearts out for free. It is, explained Smokin’ Purple Monkey Gang bassist Michael Pindus, all about karma and giving back.
For 93 years Windsor’s Moose Lodge Local 1499 has hosted the fundraiser. For almost seventy years the Lodge’s oldest active member, at 94, Ken Bickel has been involved. He was born in 1924, the year before the drive was launched in 1925. It was the Lodge’s intent to help struggling parents provide gifts to their children at the most wonderful time of the year.
At one point, organizers lined up ten children from the many in attendance. Holding toys, they illustrated how many gifts each $100 donation can buy. Marie and Tom Johnson provided a $100 cheque and challenged others to do the same. Challenge accepted, many more cheques began to arrive. Attendees also dropped off unwrapped Christmas toys creating an impressive assembly at the back of the hall.
Article and photos by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.