An ambulance used to follow Santa and Rutland Dundee firefighters to hold all the donated food, clothing and toys they collected during their annual holiday runs through Sleepy Hollow and Gilberts.
Residents were so generous, firefighters had to drive the ambulance back to the station as many as three times to empty it, so room in it could be made for more items that were donated to Carpentersville FISH Food Pantry and other local charities.
Not this year, though. When the runs start on Friday, Dec. 2, a box truck to hold all the donated items will follow, said Rutland-Dundee firefighter and paramedic Brian Rohrbacher.
"We'll fill it up easily," Rohrbacher said. "Residents have always been so generous. We know people who hold holiday parties during the night we drive through their neighborhoods. They contribute and so do all of their friends."
The Santa Run has been a holiday tradition for the two Kane County villages and rural neighborhoods for generations. Some of the firemen see those they knew as children, now adults, running to Santa's sleigh with their own children with armloads of toys and food for needy families.
Residents know when they hear the siren of the fire truck being driven along neighborhood streets, they have about five minutes to collect their donations before Santa follows in his rolling sleigh.
The excitement will resume at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, when Santa rolls though the Countryview Highlands, Lake Tara, Frontenac and Pine Cone Lane neighborhoods near Sleepy Hollow.
At 3 p.m. the following day, Dec. 3, he will roll through neighborhoods west of Sleepy Hollow Road in Sleepy Hollow. At 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, he and the firefighters will drive through neighborhoods east of Sleepy Hollow Road.
At 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, the caravan will be in the old town section of Gilberts, Gilberts Town Center and Windmill Meadows. Beginning at noon on the following day, Dec. 10, it will drive through the Timber Glen and Timber Trails neighborhoods.
And at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, Santa and the firefighters will finish their holiday run when they drive through the Indian Trail, Dunhill Estates, Gilberts Glen and Woodland Meadows neighborhoods in Gilberts.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the run used to take a couple of nights to complete. The residential building boom of the 1990s made it impossible to drive by every home and along every street.