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Auden Martus, 15 months, left, of Grosse Pointe Park; and his cousin, Andrew Bayster, 2 1/2, of the Pointe Farms, get first-hand looks at the White Christmas Carriage, making its inaugural appearance in the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade Friday Nov. 23, on Kercheval. photo by Brad Lindberg.

November 22, 2012
THE GROSSE POINTES — Auden Martus probably won't remember his first time in the driver's seat of the Grosse Pointe White Christmas Carriage.

He's only 15 months old.

Martus' mother, Heather Bendure of Grosse Pointe Park, took him to the carriage's unveiling Tuesday, Nov. 13, at a fundraiser for Friends of the Grosse Pointe Parade.

The carriage is the Friends' latest addition to the Grosse Pointe Santa Claus Parade, starting 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, on Kercheval at Lewiston in the Farms to the Village in downtown City of Grosse Pointe.

The motorized carriage used to belong to Park resident Bill Bresser.

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"I'd drive to Jacobsons and park on the sidewalk," Bresser said. "They'd load it up and away I'd go. I took a lot of kids for rides."

About 200 people attended the unveiling at Farms Pier Park.

The Friends, founded in 2005, pays for the construction and maintenance of some floats built specifically for the parade.

A couple of years ago, the Friends began collecting unwrapped gifts for donation to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots.

"The addition of Toys For Tots brought opportunities for people to get involved with the armed services," said Ed Russell, a Farms resident and founding board member of the Santa parade committee.

"There are so many children who need a little help," said John Stevens, Friends President and City resident.

He's distributed toys to needy children.

"Children leave beaming, realizing there's somebody who cares," Stevens said.

"The facial expressions of the children, moms and dads — it hits home," said Staff Sgt. Robert Stoddard, Southeast Michigan Marine Coordinator of Toys For Tots and a member of the 1st Battalion 24th Marines stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Clinton Township.

Friends, in the roll of Santa's helpers, and Marines in dress uniforms walk in the parade collecting letters to Santa and Toys for Tots.

Friends floats are:

The Santa Claus Sleigh, sponsored by Grosse Pointe News, represented by Bob and Vicki Liggett, the News' owner from Grosse Pointe Shores.

Rudolph, with flashing red nose, helping pull Santa's sleigh over the Grosse Pointe landscape, sponsored by the Kressbach family;

Toys for Tots Caboose, used to haul donated toys, sponsored by the Legacy Wealth Management Group;

Grosse Pointe Wellness Express, representing a steam locomotive pulling three passenger coaches, sponsored by Beaumont Hospital and

White Christmas Carriage, lead sponsorship by the Germack Pistachio Company.

Each year, the Friends hold a fundraiser the week before the parade. Each year, attendance grows.

"The more Grosse Pointers find out about it, the more they want to help the community," said Traci Lyons, event chair from the City of Grosse Pointe.

"What a great tradition," said Ted Kedzierski, Mayor of Grosse Pointe Shores. "This is why people move here. They want to enjoy these traditions."

"Thank you everybody who contributed to this cause," Stevens told the crowd.

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