NORTH ROYATON – It might be the middle of July, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well in North Royalton.

“Because you’re here doesn’t mean it’s going to snow does it?” Alice Baran asked Santa Claus after slipping some money in the Salvation Army red kettle he was manning.

“I had a talk with Mother Nature,” Claus smiled.

Little Ava Varndell, just 3 years old, was all smiles as she trotted up to the kettle and proudly dropped some money in too, undoubtedly securing her spot on Santa’s nice list.

“We just believe in giving back and supporting the community,” her grandmother Linda Toke said.

While they were doing their part to help out, several youngsters and teens from Boy Scout Troop 218 scrubbed down residents’ cars in the summer sun.

Mike MacKay said as a scoutmaster, he wants to lead by exampling showing the boys the importance of being of service wherever needed.

“It goes to show you can help the community in a lot of different ways, and it’s important to show the kids that,” he said while spraying down a vehicle.

That message resonates with his son Nick, 16.

“It’s nice to help people in two different ways — help wash cars and receive donations for the city of North Royalton,” he said.

Fellow Scout Josh Maslanich soaped up a nearby car.

“This felt like the right thing to do,” the 10-year-old said as he scrubbed down a car.

The city’s office on aging teamed up once again with the Royalton Hills Lions Club, Discount Drug Mart, Boy Scout Troop 218, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and generous residents to bring early Christmas presents to students of families in need.

Known as Christmas in July, this annual red-kettle event the groups collaborate on raises money for the North Royalton Salvation Army Unit, through the office on aging, and uses the dollars to provide students with back-to-school clothing vouchers to the Salvation Army store in Strongsville.

And are North Royalton residents generous. The event was hosted July 11 at Drug Mart from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and raised $1,065.

The Clauses and Lions members took turns manning the red kettle and ringing the bell to collect donations from residents, while other Lions members served up hot dogs, chips, pop and bottled water all donated by Drug Mart. Lydia’s Strudels donated pastries too that were also sold for donations.

“Drug Mart is fantastic to us. We have Lydia’s Strudels again,” said Donna Urban, of the Royalton Hills Lions. “We thank everybody for supporting us in helping the community.”

Mayor Bob Stefanik and his wife, Janice, stopped by for a hot dog and strudel.

“It’s like a mini festival out here with the food, the car show, the car wash,” the mayor said. “I like the atmosphere.”

Santa was feeling a bit festive too, sporting Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt over his trademark red and white jacket.

Summer vacation looked to be treating him well.

“I’m trying to train for the big day,” he said, patting his big belly. “With all the rain we have had, I tried to dress for the occasion to bring a little more sunshine and warmer weather with me hopefully. But, most importantly, raise some money for local residents in North Royalton.”

North Royalton holds a special place for ol’ Saint Nick.

“I have a summer home here,” he said.

Mrs. Claus feels the same way.

“I wanted to be here to support the Salvation Army and the city of North Royalton. I was tired of the North Pole, so I thought I would visit North Royalton,” she smiled.

Mr. Claus was played by Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw and Mrs. Claus was Judy Stalzer.

CJ and Lucas Waid, 6 and 5, were happy to have an early visit with the couple.

“Have you been good?” Santa asked the brothers.

“Yes,” they both said shyly.

Their dad Chris said it was about much more than just seeing Santa.

“It’s a good lesson for them about giving,” he said.

Debra Burrows, outreach specialist for the office on aging, said the giving, on all fronts, was incredible.

“The Royalton Hills ladies did a superb job as usual, and Royal Redeemer Troop 218 rocked it out of the park. We are extremely grateful to Discount Drug Mart for once again sponsoring this great event. We had record-breaking numbers across the board, we even had more cars than in previous years,” she said. “The sun was shining on us for sure this past Saturday. Why even Santa and Mrs. Claus came tropically dressed for the event. Mahalo, North Royalton, Mahalo.”

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