'Santa D' living on Wrightsville bridge this week for charity
Most people know Santa to be the jolly fellow up north who delivers toys to good boys and girls Christmas morning.
But for one week, people will be bringing the toys to Santa — who will be camped out on the Veterans Memorial Bridge from Monday, Dec. 11, to Friday, Dec. 15, collecting donations for Toys for Tots.
The bridge, which runs along Route 462, connects the York County borough of Wrightsville with Columbia on the Lancaster County side of the Susquehanna River.
The local radio personality who goes by "Bobby D" will transform into Santa D for the third year in a row to help children in need.
The 96.1 SOX Wake Up Crew DJ is grateful he can do this every year. He said it "breaks my heart" to know there are children who will come down the steps Christmas morning and not see a toy underneath the tree.
Drivers can visit Santa D on the Columbia side of the bridge. Coming from York County, they can pull into an open lane, which will turn around into a "half U," where vehicles can pull over. There also is parking nearby.
Santa D's spot is not just a drop-off location.
Families will see Christmas decorations, lights, photo-ops with Santa for kids and pets, and Santa D said he will be "nonstop dancing, waving at cars (and) school buses in the morning."
"It's a party on the bridge," he said.
The radio station had been seeing a decline in donations to Toys for Tots, so three years ago, Bobby D explained, a group brainstorm session brought up the idea of Santa visiting five locations — a different one each day — to collect toys and raise awareness.
One of those locations was the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and the reaction to seeing Santa on the bridge that first year was so strong, the station decided he should be there full time.
"Each year, we try to make it bigger and better," Bobby D said. They wanted to stick with the five days and thought it was a great way to "promote awareness and say, 'This crazy guy in the middle of December is going to live on the bridge,'" he said.
Weather can be a concern, but Bobby D is prepared, with lots of layers and a heated tent and RV. Last year, he said, there was a major windstorm that came through, which made things difficult, but he is keeping an eye on the forecast.
There's a possibility of snow this year, but he embraces it, saying, "I hope it does happen cause it really does add to the atmosphere."
Santa D also doesn't have to worry about food. He has his own stash, but if he ever runs out, the community steps up.
"One woman every year brings me a coffee cake," he said. "It is by far the best coffee cake I’ve ever had." He said she delivers it "right out of the oven."
"I can say I’m hungry, and I have," Bobby D said about asking for help on the air.
"There was a diner one morning, and the owner of the diner sent one of their workers," he said. "Brought exactly what I wanted."
Bobby D said several businesses in the Columbia/Wrightsville area have reached out to help this year, offering everything from food to a truck to carry the toys, lighting and the tent and RV.
"It really is a community event. Everyone pitches in where they can," he said.
Bobby D said the station started with a goal of 5,000 toys in the first year, and last year the toy drive received 6,597 donations.
"In the two years I’ve lived on the bridge, we collected over 11,400 new, unwrapped toy donations," he said in a news release. This year's goal is to beat last year, he said.
Donations go to the Toys for Tots of Southern York County and of Lancaster County, and Bobby D said the two organizations combined donated 90,000 toys last year.
Residents of those counties who drop off toys will be asked where they're from so they can donate toys to their county's program.
"If you live in York County, you’re helping your neighbor," he said.