"Christmas." When the word comes to mind, many think about the abundant gifts, delicious food, and incredible memories. However, for many others, even in the quaint community of Branford, the thought of Christmas is tied to worry: it is a financially demanding holiday, and there are children in our own town who have nothing to open on Christmas morning.
This is why, seven years ago, the Christmas Caddy was born. The Christmas Caddy is in memory of Bruce Pantani, the man that instilled the values of giving in his family and all that knew him. When he could barely afford to give to his own family, he gave to the less fortunate, especially during Christmas. For over 40 years, Bruce and Johanne Pantani have donated toys, gifts, and food through the Branford Counseling Center to help children in our town.
Bruce Pantani died of cancer in 2008. With the annual Christmas Caddy drive, family members continue carrying on his legacy of giving. This year, family member Caitlin Baker leads the effort as part of her Branford High School senior exhibit project.
"We believe everyone has the ability to make a child's Christmas better, and the Christmas Caddy is the first step," said Baker.
Baker and members of the Pantani, Angelo, Fowler and Baker families will be collecting toys, cash, and gift card donations in Pantani's 1969 cherry red Cadillac de Ville, and deliver them to the Branford Counseling Center.
Supporters can help make Christmas brighter for Branford's children and teens by donating a gift to the Christmas Caddy over the coming weekends. Collections will be held at Branford Walmart from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 24, Sat. Nov. 25 and Sun. Nov. 26. The Christmas Caddy will also be driving in collections in front of Town Hall on the Branford green Sunday, Dec. 3, from 11 a.m - 3 p.m.
Reporters Note: In 2016, 509 individuals from 362 Branford families in need received gifts and donations through Branford Counseling Center's "Secret Santa" program. Many contributions arrived thanks to the Christmas Caddy. See the story here