For about 24 hours starting on Christmas Eve, Jimmy Cvetic plays Santa Claus. He and the "elves" of the Western Pennsylvania Police Athletic League spend that time delivering hundreds of toys to underprivileged children across the region.
But before that day can come, PAL actually has to raise the money for these toys. The group will hold a holiday party on Dec. 13 at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont, featuring a screening of The Polar Express; visits with Santa; Christmas caroling with the North Star Singers; and homemade treats by "the women of the Police Athletic League," Cvetic says.
PAL has been running the gift program for decades and the list of children needing gifts grows every year, Cvetic says. Entry to the event is a $10 donation or a $10 toy. But Cvetic (an occasional CP contributor) says a lack of funds doesn't have to keep children away.
"I'll take $10, a toy or a good story. Every kid should be able to enjoy Christmas and this movie," says Cvetic, who points to the film's message of "Believe." "Some of these kids don't have much and we want them to believe that there are good people out there. That's what this group is, a lot of good people working together to help these kids. None of this would be possible without the great people in this organization."
Cvetic says nonprofit groups who want to bring kids to the event should contact him at 412-298-7373, for seats available on a first-come, first-served basis.
"This program, made up of dedicated, current and former police officers, started on a small scale and has just grown over the years, partly because we can't say no to anybody," Cvetic says. "We start early in the morning on Dec. 24 delivering these toys and sometimes don't finish up until the next morning.
"I've had people call me on Christmas Eve and say they need help for one reason or another and we've always made that happen."