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Doctor returns to Elmhurst as Rock'n'Roll Santa to support tornado victims

ELMHURST – Santa is coming to town this weekend, but he won’t be listening to Christmas lists.

He’ll be rocking out with the mission to raise money for the Washington Tornado Relief Fund.

“It’ll be fun to come home,” said Dr. Thom McGorey, an IC Catholic Prep alumnus.

Before pursing medical school, McGorey taught Chemistry at Washington Community High School in Washington, Ill. for four years.

“That was my first job out of college,” he said.

From 1986 to 1990, McGorey also coached track and field at the high school. Although he now works as a hospitalist physician with the University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine and the Director of Hospital Medicine at UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center in Watertown, Wis., McGorey felt compelled to do something for Washington when he heard about the Nov. 17 tornado.

He was playing a Christmas show for a local charity a week after the tornado when he decided to go on a 25-show tour in 25 days to raise money for Washington relief.

“This music only has a four-week shelf life,” he said of the eclectic Christmas songs he’d put together for the show.

His show, A Classic Rock Christmas, features Elvis Presley, John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen versions of popular holiday songs as well as John Denver, Amy Grant and more traditional winter favorites.

Dressed in a Santa suit, McGorey’s authentic white beard and acoustic guitar set the scene for a three-hour show with a song for everyone.

The Rock’n’Roll Santa has been playing guitar since college, but didn’t start playing for an audience until earlier this year.

“I’ve always wanted to play in a band,” he said.

After playing regular charity shows in Watertown, he first thought about dedicating his next show to the Washington Tornado Relief Fund. But he decided he wanted to do more.

“A thousand homes are destroyed,” McGorey said. “A couple hundred bucks isn’t going to be enough.”

He then tried to get a group of musicians together to play a larger show, but the holiday season proved too difficult to coordinate schedules.

Instead, McGorey launched his solo tour Nov. 29, booking shows as far north as De Pere, Wis., and as far south as Normal, Ill.

While his first handful of shows yielded him a little more than $2,000, McGorey set a goal to earn $10,000 by his final show Dec. 22. He hopes his 16th and 17th shows in his hometown of Elmhurst will help significantly.

He’s chosen towns like Elmhurst, where he grew up and Normal, where he attended Illinois State University, because he has a connection to them. He hopes his long established relationships will help him reach his goal, but McGorey also said it is fun to visit familiar places.

“A lot of places I get to see a lot of friends that I haven’t seen in years,” McGorey said.

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