Gary Draeger – 630 CHED Santas Anonymous Head Elf

Born on April 8, 1944 in Edmonton, Gary joined the CHED family in 1972 as Managing Director of Public Service.  630 CHED Santas Anonymous founder Jerry Forbes brought him on board to manage the growing campaign as well as other public service initiatives of the radio station.  Shortly after Gary took on the reins at Santas, he also started his family, marrying his wife Dawn in 1973. They had two daughters, Brandi and Chelsea.

Over the years, Gary filled many roles at 630 CHED and numerous other companies, from copywriter to meat packer, but the one constant for him was always Santas Anonymous.

Gary became known as “head elf” and his name and boisterous laugh became synonymous with the 630 CHED Santas Anonymous campaign. During the holiday season Gary worked tirelessly, on a diet of stale donuts and coffee, to ensure that no child was forgotten on Christmas day.  Every year through 2 months of 12 hour days, 7 days a week, Gary’s commitment never wavered. Although he never considered himself a fundraiser Gary secured numerous in-kind and cash donations, along with warehouse space.  He was the first one in and last one out every day and would always ensure the last gift was wrapped and every family had received their toys.

Gary had the privilege of working with a group of longtime volunteers who became a second family to him.  Their friendship, support and dedication to 630 CHED Santas Anonymous meant the world to Gary and helped ensure the success of the campaign every year.

As the Santas Anonymous campaign grew so did Gary’s love for it.  Jerry’s simple mission of ensuring every child had a new toy at Christmas time resonated with him and was his driving passion until his passing in May of 2005.

Although proceeds from the 630 CHED golf tournament have always benefited Santas Anonymous in 2005 it was renamed  to the 630 CHED Gary Draeger Memorial Golf Classic in honour of Gary.

In 2005 our Board of Directors along with Dawn and daughters Chelsea and Brandi developed criteria for the Gary Draeger Memorial Award for volunteers to be presented annually.

Each recipient of the Award receives an etched glass keepsake to celebrate their recognition. In 2011 long time Santas supporter and artist Bob Aoki created a permanent sculpture for display at Santas Depot entitled “Nuff said Gary”.  Below is Bob’s story of how the sculpture’s title came to be.

“Nuff said Gary”

There are many cultures around the world that raise their hands in supplication when saying Thank You. My “Lifetime of Thanks” series of sculptures are dedicated to people who have had an influence on my life. They have shared with me a part of them that put a perspective on life that allowed for my own personal growth. They also offered challenges that have lead to a life’s journey to understand the meaning of what it means to be a human being.

It is with great respect that I take that what has been shared and the many questions on my journey. One of the many that I learned from Gary Draeger was that giving comes in the form of personal fulfillment. To wit, I have named this piece “Nuff said Gary”. I named it this because Gary was the type of person that did what he did out of personal fulfillment and was humble about it. I found this title to be appropriate as it would be like two old friends sitting and enjoying each other’s silence all the while knowing each other’s intent.

– R.K. Aoki