Ann Arbor mom organizes socially distant Santa’s ‘sleigh ride’ in northside neighborhood

Santa Joe Eadie rides in a "sleigh" through Ann Arbor's Glacier Highlands neighborhood on Dec. 19, 2020. (Carly Ly)

ANN ARBOR – The Christmas spirit came alive on Saturday in the Glacier Highlands neighborhood on Ann Arbor’s northside.

Mom to four kids and local organizer, Carly Ly, arranged for Santa to ride through the neighborhood on a “sleigh” that her husband built connected to the family car.

But this wasn’t just any Santa. The Ly family has been welcoming Joe Eadie -- also known as Kerrytown Santa -- into their home for the past nine years.

The family has developed a close relationship with Eadie, who has watched their kids grow up. He has also made an impression on neighbors, visiting those experiencing a sudden loss of a loved one during the holiday season.

The Ly family with Santa Joe Eadie on Dec. 19, 2020. (Carly Ly)

Instead of charging a fee for the appearance, Eadie referred attendees to his fundraiser for the Salvation Army.

“It’s something that’s incredibly meaningful to me in terms of just bringing people together and really building community,” said Ly.

“What’s been so challenging during the pandemic is for people to maintain routines and rituals and I think that it’s so easy to become fatigued and it’s hard to think of a way to be safe and be connected.”

Carly Ly is seen walking through her neighborhood during the Santa event on Dec. 19, 2020. (Carly Ly)

She quietly organized the event and spread the word on the neighborhood Facebook page and on WhatsApp. She wanted to be mindful of the current health crisis and did not want people to gather in large numbers.

As a surprise to the local children, two teachers from King Elementary joined the sleigh ride after nine months of remote learning.

A mental health consultant for preschoolers and an expert in trauma-informed resilience care, Ly said she worries about the impact the pandemic is having on mental health.

Santa Joe Eadie surprises children during the pandemic on Dec. 19, 2020. (Carly Ly)
Local mothers pose with Santa Joe Eadie on Dec. 19, 2020 in the Glacier Highlands neighborhood in Ann Arbor. (Carly Ly)

“For me, it’s so important for people to find everyday what makes them feel safe and connected,” said Ly. “During this time, the space we’re in, I think a lot of people are not feeling connected. It’s hard to find satisfaction.”

Ly said some neighbors called the event the highlight of their holiday season.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.