Christmas songs ... and spirit ... 24/7

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

I was all set to bash the overplaying of Christmas music. We have 93.9 FM, "Chicago's Christmas Music Station" playing Christmas songs 24/7. This was too much for a Grinch like me — until I learned the station truly does have the Christmas spirit.  

Every year, they encourage listeners to submit their "Christmas Wish" for themselves or others. Morning host Melissa Forman and staff sift through thousands of these requests and select the wishes to be fulfilled. Of the 15 selected this year, one gift merited delivery in person. 

On Dec. 17, Forman and her production staff, along with Edison the Reindeer, showed up at Garfield School. They presented a gift to Chantal McDonald, who has been a teacher's assistant in kindergarten for four years. 

Chantal is also a devoted LITE FM listener. She went to the station's website to fill out a form requesting a "Christmas Wish." Chantal and her husband, DaMond, are raising four daughters: Jacqueline, 24; Melia, 20; Nya, 11; and Brook, 8. It had been a tough year for the family emotionally and financially. Melia had moved out and DaMond had his pay cut at work.

Chantal's wish was for a special Christmas for her family to celebrate Melia's return home in August. She wanted to show her daughters that good things can come during tough times. She wanted to buy some nice things to show them that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

She sent her wish the week of Thanksgiving. She later received a text from Forman requesting a phone interview. On Nov. 27, she spoke to Forman about her Christmas wish. The radio host told Chantal the station was giving her $500. 

"I felt so blessed that they would think of giving to my family," she said.

Chantal's interview with Forman was taped and replayed on-air. It was a thrill to hear her own voice on the radio. She later received an email from the station asking if they could present the gift in person. Chantal told them they would have to come to her workplace. Principal Jamie Stauder welcomed the station to Garfield School.

When they arrived, Forman and crew were carrying an oversize cardboard check, with tape over the amount. They filmed an interview with Chantal in the library. At the end of their talk, Forman complained, "This tape is messed up." She pulled the tape off to reveal the amount: $1,500!

Chantal invited Forman to her kindergarten class. Garfield students cheered Edison along the way. She described Forman and her crew as very friendly, kind and genuine. When she was leaving, Forman presented the staff with a $50 gift card for Dunkin' Donuts. 

Chantal was blown away by her gift but felt $1,500 was too much for Christmas. She will donate some of the money to people in need at her place of worship, New Life Community Church. Members pick the names of families and their list of needs off a tree. Chantal's family does this every year, regardless of their circumstances. 

Meanwhile, she's enjoying the Christmas songs that LITE FM started playing way back on Nov. 8. Her favorite is "O Holy Night" by Mariah Carey. The station's program director, Mick Lee, is painfully aware that some consider their Christmas format to be overkill. Most of their listeners, though, are enthusiastic about the songs. 

"There's so much to worry about in this world," he said. "Christmas music is the last thing we should be upset about." Especially when the station helps people like Chantal. 

I will never complain about Christmas music again — although "The 12 Days of Christmas" still makes me cringe every time.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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