Santa’s annual Ho-Ho Express convoy is scheduled for Dec. 16

Steve Dominguez, right, presents Joe Malay, left, with a $12,000 check that will help fund the annual Ho-Ho Express that takes place this year on Dec. 16 for Weiser and Dec. 19 for Annex School.
Philip A. Janquart

More donations are needed to fund event benefitting area children

Santa’s annual Ho-Ho Express is scheduled this year for Saturday, Dec. 16 for Weiser kids and Tuesday, Dec. 19 for Annex kids. 

 Every year, a magical convoy, consisting of over 400 kids and their chaperones in 10 buses, with Santa trailing behind, are escorted from Weiser to the Walmart in Ontario, with lights flashing and sirens blazing.
 On Dec. 16, kids will depart Weiser at 8 a.m. with an approximate arrival time of 8:45 a.m.
 Once at Walmart, each of Santa’s 250 specially chosen children will spend $50 on Christmas presents for family, relatives, friends, or even themselves. The idea is to give each kid something they will always remember, said organizer Joe Malay who first launched the special event 36 years ago.
 “When the kids are selected by Santa, it’s because they are special,” Malay said. “It’s really a great thing because these kids get to ride the bus and all of the police in the escort makes them feel pretty special, like they are a part of something big, then they get to spend their $50. It’s something Santa likes to do, just to give these kids a little pat on the back during the Christmas season.”
 Kids from Annex will depart at 8 a.m. on Dec. 19 and arrive at the Bi-Mart in Weiser where they, too, will have the opportunity to spend $50 on whatever they want, for whoever they want. It is a highly anticipated event that could not materialize without the help of generous donors like Steve’s Hometown Motors, which reserves a large chunk of funds raised through its Hometown Community Benefit held annually in September for the Ho-Ho Express. The Community Benefit is a two-day event featuring the Taste of Treasure Valley Charity Auction and Dinner and the Hometown Community Benefit Golf Tournament, which raise funds for families in need heading into the holiday season. The money goes in several different directions, this year Steve and Marissa Dominguez donating $12,000 to the Ho-Ho Express. In previous years, the couple has donated $10,000. The cost to pull off the Ho-Ho Express is over $20,000, which means Malay is still seeking donations to support the event.
 “Santa isn’t wealthy,” Malay chuckled. “We are still in need of community donations from organizations, businesses, and individuals and every little bit helps because we have 400 kids, 250 that do the Weiser Ho-Ho Express and then we take 100 from Annex over to Bi-Mart where $4,000 to $5,000 stays here in the community. And then we do 30 or 40 over at the middle school and as many as we can from the high school. We also take cases of sodas over to a couple of care centers, so we spread it around and all of that takes cash. The bigger the income, the more people we can reach.”
 Brad Janicek Farms and Family Eye Center in Ontario recently made generous donations. Malay said the event requires plenty of logistical planning and coordination between law enforcement agencies.
 “You have 10 buses and 10 bus drivers, and then you have the Weiser Police, Payette Police, and Idaho State Police all working together to drive the Ho-Ho Express into Oregon,” he said. “The police escort is a classic for me and we really appreciate their efforts and cooperation. It’s a pretty neat deal.” 
 To make a donation, call Joe Malay at (208) 794-7166. Checks can be deposited at Zions Bank, made payable to The Santa Fund.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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