CRYSTAL LAKE – When walking up to a store in December, it’s hard to miss the sound of a ringing bell and someone standing near a red kettle asking for donations. Especially when P.J. Studley rings the bell.
“I wear a Santa suit, play Christmas music, turn it up, sing and dance,” Studley said. “I show others I’m having a great time to encourage people to give back and help others in need.”
The 39-year-old Lake in the Hills resident stood Friday in front of the Crystal Lake Walgreens on Route 14 to donate his time to The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
“I’m actually exhausted when I’m done because I jump around so much,” Studley said. “It’s like a rock concert and you’re trying to captivate an audience.”
Studley has been ringing the bell for 22 years and plans to keep doing so in the future.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” Studley said. “It makes you feel so good, puts a smile on your face and puts a smile on others’ faces as well.”
Relatively new to ringing the bell is a Cary-based group of friends called the Silver Bells, who helped ring the bell Thursday night in front of the Jewel-Osco in Cary.
This is their second year in a row volunteering.
“We do it because we love what The Salvation Army does for other people, and we want to help those in need,” Silver Bells member Judy Michols said.
Michols also has her own personal reason for giving back to others.
“A little over a year ago, I lost my 18-year-old son,” Michols said. “And this is kind of a way of helping us get through grief, because you can get through grief with kindness.”
“If I can bring joy to others, it helps me with the grief just seeing others smile and knowing I’m helping out other people,” Michols said.
Crystal Lake resident Becki Enck said she has helped ring the bell the past four years with her husband and two children.
“Our son [Cam] has special needs and has a lot of medical issues, as well, so sometimes when we’d go to the stores, he’d see firefighters who have come to our house, and he loved ringing the bells,” Enck said.
So Enck said they made it a family tradition for the four of them to spend a couple of hours around the holidays standing next to the kettles.
“It’s a way for our whole family to come together to do volunteering,” Enck said. “What’s nice is anyone can do it.”
The Salvation Army of McHenry County is hoping to raise $200,000 from this year’s campaign, which would all go to people who need help in the county.
“The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign is the hallmark of our organization,” Executive Director Carol Lewis said. “It’s what people identify most with The Salvation Army.”
When people hear the bell, they hear the sound of hope, Lewis said, which leads to people ringing the bell for many different reasons.
“If you think of all the wonderful, generous people putting their money in the kettle, they never meet the person impacted by the money that is put in, but they do it anyhow,” Lewis said.
Volunteers still are needed to ring bells at red kettle sites in McHenry County through Dec. 24.