“It’s just a goofy thing we do,” says Dave Doroghy, as he explains the history behind Dorg’s Christmas Sing-A-Long.
But this “goofy thing” has helped fundraise about $244,000 for The Salvation Army’s Vancouver Harbour Light during its time. A service on the Downtown Eastside dedicated to helping people who are homeless, incarcerated or whose lives are dysfunctional because of addiction to drugs or alcohol.
This year marks 46 years of the Christmas carol sing-a-long held in Vancouver’s west side annually on Dec. 23. This year Doroghy hopes to hit the group’s goal of fundraising more than $250,000, for the organization.
It’s a tradition that was born many moons ago amongst a group of high-school friends with a little too much booze on their breath, for their age, a lot of energy and “a song in their hearts.”
“I was in Grade 10 and I invited some people over my mum’s place,” Doroghy, now age 61, recalls.
“Back then we would drink a lot and we just thought, ‘Let’s go sing.’ We had so much fun that we did it again the next year and the year after that, and it just kept going.”
He says for the first 10 years the group would go out carolling with no real purpose. Until one day someone asked: “Are you raising money for something?”
“We weren’t, and I just yelled out, ‘Yeah we are… The Salvation Army,’” says Doroghy.
“After that, we had a bit of purpose. We’d collect maybe $300 or $400 singing from door to door and I’d mail it to The Salvation Army.”
Over time, as the group grew in popularity and size, so did the donations.
“It began to gain momentum and the $300 or $400 we might raise turned into $1,000 or $2,000. In recent years we’ve gone out and we might raise $15,000 or $20,000 in a night,” Doroghy says.
The group even made worldwide headlines a couple of years ago, when a video of them singing “police navidad” on the streets went viral (you probably remember this one.)
“We were out singing and we surrounded a police car in front of Tim Hortons and sang “police navidad” [instead of “Feliz Navidad”] it doesn’t get more Canadian than that,” Doroghy says laughing.
“Someone was walking by and filmed it on their cell phone and posted it on Facebook — we were getting calls from London and L.A.”
On Dec. 23, the carolling group of about 50 men will be out in force singing to foster Christmas spirit and raise money for the worthy cause on the streets of West Point Grey and Kitsilano starting at 8:30 p.m.
They take the same carolling route every year. You’ll hear them coming up West Fourth Avenue to Alma Street, from Alma Street to West Broadway, and east along West Broadway for five or six blocks.
They stop at pubs, cafes and restaurants along the way. The merry men even drop in at liquor stores, pool halls, convenience stores and laundromats.
He says it’s quite a sight to see when “the doors swing open and guys wearing red felt hats and jingling their musical bells pile in, wailing away at the top of their lungs,” Doroghy says.
“Wherever there are people we will stop to sing and collect money.”
The last stop is a fire hall where they jump up on a fire truck and sing and take some pictures.
He says at different times of his life he has lived overseas, in London, England and Memphis, TN, but he has always returned to keep the tradition alive. He now rents his home out in West Point Grey and lives on the Fraser River, but only on the condition that the current tenants allow him to use the property on the night of 23rd each year — surprisingly they do.
“I had no idea that in 1973 it’d still be going in 2019,” he says with a smile.
“It’s a lot of fellowship. As my friends got older they started bringing their kids and it continued to grow. It would have died a long time ago if it wasn’t for that.”
He describes the shindig as “the Christmas Spirit meets Monty Python.”
Doroghy, who’s now semi-retired after a 30-year career in sports sponsorship, has an obvious passion and respect for the Salvation Army’s work. He’s now a part-time writer but always takes the time to lend a hand to the charity.
His support for the organisation was cemented back in 1992, when he decided to hand deliver the donations at the annual Harbour Light Christmas meal on Dec. 25 to see where the money was going. That one visit inspired him and led to 25 years of volunteering. When he visited, he noticed the event had no carols to liven the mood. He became the event’s DJ and now plays Christmas songs while other volunteers help prepare a festive feast to feed more than a 1,000 people on the Downtown Eastside each Christmas Day.
“I just really believe in the Salvation Army and what they do,” he says. “For me it has been nice spending my Christmas days down there. I like the vibe and I’m really impressed with the work they do.”
This year the carolling group hope to fundraise $10,000.
“My Christmas message is, support the Salvation Army,” Doroghy says. “They need people to come down and help, and they’re inundated with volunteers on Christmas, but there’s a need there all year round.”
He says what’s obvious is the charity needs money to continue the great work that they do.
“The work they do is amazing, but there is just so much need and so much desperation and sadness,” Doroghy says.
“All my friends are affluent and they can give. I’ll help in any way I can. The sing-a-long is a way to move a little bit of money down there and to have some fun.”
Look out for them on the streets of Kitsilano Dec. 23.
Read the original article here.