Even Santa is feeling the effects of the cornavirus crisis.
Thankfully he's not sick, but COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of an annual event that allows St. Nick to help struggling people at holiday time.
The pandemic has caused organizers to call off the popular Hole-in-One Contest that benefits the Gazette Santa Fund. The fund helps Haverhill people under financial strain put gifts under the Christmas tree.
The Murphy family, which owns Garrison Golf Center on Hilldale Avenue, has hosted the contest for the last 50 years. Mary Murphy said she, husband Ted and their extended family decided it would be too risky to have the event while the coronavirus crisis continues. The contest typically draws big crowds — the kind of social environment discouraged by health officials during the pandemic.
Instead, the Murphys are asking people who would have participated in the contest to donate money to the Santa Fund.
Donations to the fund can be made by using a form that will appear in the Gazette during the holiday season. The form explains how to make out checks, where to send them and how to list names of people in whose memory donations are made. Donations can also be made at the Gazette's website — hgazette.com — which during the holiday season will provide instructions on how to donate.
Donations can also be dropped off at Murphy's Garrison Golf Center, 654 Hilldale Ave., Haverhill, MA, 01830. Checks should be made out to The Haverhill Gazette Santa Fund.
Mary Murphy of the Murphy family said the Santa Fund will be especially important this year because of the effects of the pandemic.
"This year we're going to need it more'' with people out of work and otherwise struggling financially because of the health crisis, she said.
The Hole-in-One Contest, a four-day event, is usually held in early October and, in recent years, has raised $6,000 to $7,000 annually for the Santa Fund. In its 60-year history, the contest has raised more than $200,000 in total for the fund.
During the contest, participants pay a fee to hit golf balls toward a hole in an effort to get a hole-in-one or a close shot. People who make the best shots win prizes donated by local businesses — golf equipment and gift certificates, for example.
Mary Murphy said her family will ask businesses that typically donate prizes to instead give money to the Santa Fund.
"More children,'' she said, "are going to need help this year.''