Local Jacksonville Man Brings Christmas Cheer to the Developmentally Disabled

By Gary Scott on December 9, 2020 at 10:04am

A Jacksonville native is raising funds to continue his efforts of promoting Christmas cheer to the developmentally disabled.

Jamie Gish, a native of Jacksonville has worked with the developmentally disabled for five years, and is the founder of the Reindeer Express Project.

Last year Gish attended Santa School to become a Santa, and says his focus as he entered his second Christmas season portraying the jolly old elf, is to provide a Santa experience to developmentally disabled members of the community who have been unable to travel out due to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Most of them haven’t been anywhere since this pandemic began. They’ve been inside their group homes, and you know I just started to feel bad for them, so I wanted to do something to make a special Christmas memory for them.”

Gish says the Reindeer Express Project is all contactless to help conform to COVID-19 guidelines: “So, they’re all no contact visits, so what I’ll be doing is arriving. I got some LED under-glow lights put on my car the other day in red, so I pull-up I have some red under-glow lights on. I have some Christmas music blasting and get out [and] wave to everybody. [I] try to communicate with them as much as I can through the windows or to stay socially distanced. I’ll leave a package for them, and then if the off-duty staff are parked outside of that group home when I stop there, then I’ll just swing by to say hi to all the kids in the cars, and I have got some treats for them too.”

Gish delivers gift baskets that include Christmas activities for the members of the group homes to do: “What they are getting is a box of premade Christmas cookies to decorate. It’s an instant Christmas party, so they get the cookies. They get a Christmas DVD, some Christmas crafts, a game, [and] a jingle bell necklace, so they’ve got a bunch of goodies, so they can have a party once Santa leaves.

Gish made five visits in the Jacksonville area over the past weekend, with more planned for Springfield, Lebanon and Godfrey next week.

Jacksonville business No Regrets Cookies, has partnered with Gish by helping him provide the cookies that go in the baskets. While Gish hopes to give to approximately 30 group homes during this season, he says he only has the funding for the eight currently scheduled.

To donate, you can find the Reindeer Express Project on go fund me.com.

For more information, you can look on santajamie.org or go to Jamie Gish’s Facebook page.