What might you call a group of Santas? A sack of Santas…a sled-load? Whatever term feels more appropriate for the jolly crew, there’s nothing quite like the sight of over 240 red hat-wearing, cheery-eyed volunteers spreading joy and giving help. La Compagnia di Babbo Natale was banded together in 2007 by Roberto Giacinti, who united 30 friends in efforts to assist those in need.
These admirable intentions attract an ever-increasing number of members with charitable endeavours extending far beyond the bounds of Tuscany with an awe-inspiring list of activities. President of the foundation, Silvano Gori, enthusiastically outlined some of them: “We’re active 12 months of the year. From the end of November, we wear the full Santa costume, but for the rest of the year it’s just the iconic hat.” “And are there Mrs. Clauses?” I asked. “It was one of the first things I brought in when I became president in March 2021. We now have about 20 women Santas and a wide age range amongst our members.”
Assisting a long list of charitable associations and collaborating with local social services, the Santas are engaged in varied projects to assist those in need. “We try to give help in as many areas as possible, while also trying to spread joy. At Christmas, we give gifts to children in disadvantaged areas. This year, we will give up to 800 presents to children in Le Piagge. In September, we took children undergoing long-term therapy at the Meyer Hospital to Gardaland, in collaboration with Fondazione Tommasino Bacciotti, providing them and their families a moment of normalcy and happiness. Every Easter, we help the vulnerable to pay their bills and also give financial assistance to those in need over Christmas. This year, we have started to become involved in educational projects, such as children’s ability to socialize given the effects of the pandemic. We’re also working with the Conversando association, funding projects in which they speak to adolescents about suffering from eating disorders. Our goal is always to do something where we see there is a need. In May, along with Misericordie di Toscana, we collected 150 children from Ukraine. An airline gave us the use of a plane and we went to the border with Poland, dressed as Santa, giving them gifts with their names before bringing them to Italy, where they were given homes in Lombardy, Basilicata and Tuscany. In August, we travelled to Madagascar to provide aid to Italian nuns who assist children there. It was greatly moving and motivates us to do more. Doing this work, we receive a lot more than we give. It gives us different perspectives and makes us approach life differently.”
“On December 7, we’ll participate in the switching on of the Christmas lights in piazza del Duomo. We’ll be travelling by our festive train, starting by switching on the Christmas tree lights at the Palazzo Vecchio, where the Mayor Dario Nardella will climb aboard, then we’ll continue to the piazza. On December 8, you’ll find us handing out sweets and smiles in the streets of the city. We have also written a song! We’ll perform it on December 11 at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and the Maggio orchestra will play Verdi’s The Four Seasons.”
Having officially become a foundation last year, the objective is to grow and obtain ever-more resources to assist those in need. “We are always available, and always with a smile”.
Visit www.lacompagniadibabbonatale.it to learn more about their myriad projects and how to donate.