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School & Youth
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  • Photo by Sharon Mager

Riverdale Reindeer Ride Again

Sharon Mager
View Bio
December 6, 2017

The Riverdale Reindeer are hanging up their antlers after another successful ride. The “reindeer” are teens who live around Riverdale Road and go out each year to gather toys and nonperishable food to help families provide Christmas cheer for their children. The herd size fluctuates as kids grow and move away, but others take their places, with the group now at about 25 members.

The Riverdale Reindeer effort began over a decade ago, when Tim George, then an eighth-grader who lived in the Riverdale community, collected food and toys along his paper route in the Riverdale Road area for a service project and was amazed when he filled a truck. Encouraged by the response and feedback, he asked friends to join him the following year.

When George went to college, he passed the lead role to his brother, Matt. Through the years, the leadership baton has been passed to relatives and friends. Chesapeake High School senior Jacquelyn Colangelo is now wearing the lead reindeer antlers. Last year, her neighbor Brett Buckley passed it down to her and co-chair Nina Swisher. This year, Colangelo is leading the pack solo although her brothers will take over next year when she goes to college.

“It began as a service project and now it’s a nonprofit,” Colangelo explained. “Whatever we collect, we donate to Take Back Our Streets (TBOS).”

TBOS is a nonprofit that provides support and financial assistance to community organizations and programs that work for the betterment of youth and their families.

Colangelo said the annual reindeer run is a lot of fun for everyone involved, including parents, who help to prepare the “sleighs,” which are trailers decorated and pulled behind cars. Parents also provide supervision throughout the walk. The group distributes flyers to more than 350 homes a week before they head out for the collection.

“We have music playing, and one of the neighborhood dads is Santa,” Colangelo said. Sometimes there are special guests, like the Grinch, or an elf or two. The reindeer look forward to their ride, but the community also looks forward to it, Colangelo said.

“We’ve met a lot of neighbors. They love us,” she said. Neighbors have donated candy canes, paper for flyers, red hoodies and hats. By the time the reindeer hit the streets, they’re a very festive bunch in red, some with antlers and Santa hats.

The Riverdale Reindeer each year have been the biggest donors. Last year, they collected $5,000 worth of toys and food. TBOS leaders transfer the gifts to members of Abundant Life Church in Glen Burnie, which distributes the food and toys to anyone in need through its holiday sharing program.

Betty Colangelo, Jacquelyn’s mother, said she and her husband, Todd, are proud of Jacquelyn, and their three sons, Andrew, David and Joshua, who all help with the project, as well as all of the neighborhood kids who participate.

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