As much as it offers a chance to spoil our loved ones and gather together with our nearest and dearest, Christmas is also a prime opportunity to let loose.
Whether it’s getting a bit too merry at a staff Christmas party or overindulging in the massive turkey and ham dinner with all the trimmings until we’re so stuffed we have to unbutton our trousers, sometimes fully embracing the festive spirit means allowing ourselves the freedom to look a bit silly in the process — and few traditions are more effective in that regard than donning a good old fashioned Christmas jumper!
From ones with questionable puns to quaint handknitted ones, and right through the spectrum to the downright wacky, there are a multitude of different Christmas jumpers out there. And for every variation of festive knitwear you can find, there are just as many different people who center their annual celebrations around these garments, making Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day a fixed part of their traditions each year.
There is one thing, however, that each and every one of these people have in common — doing it all for a fantastic cause!
Cork Simon’s Christmas Jumper Day has been one of the charity’s most vital fundraising campaigns for more than a decade now, bringing in €130,000 last year alone. This money goes directly towards helping thousands of men and women across Cork and Kerry who are at risk of, or are experiencing, homelessness and allows Cork Simon to continue their invaluable work.
“These last few weeks leading into Christmas represent Cork Simon’s biggest fundraising opportunity in the year, in fact about 60% of our overall annual income is generated just from that short winter period,” explains Cork Simon's Kerry MacMahon.
“Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day contributes to that hugely, and it’s a particularly popular one for drawing in people who aren’t already familiar with Cork Simon or who haven’t donated to us before. A lot of fundraising campaigns target a specific demographic, but Jumper Day is a great universal one — anybody can take part and they can do it anywhere!
“That’s really reflected when you look at the wide group of ongoing supporters we have for this initiative, too. Our jumper day community is already about 400 strong, and that includes a wide mix of everyone from companies to community organisations, education settings such as primary/secondary schools and universities, and care settings. We do recommend that adults taking part make a €5 donation, or a €2 donation for schools, but people are free to give any amount they want. It’s really something that can work anywhere or with anyone — as long as people are willing to have fun! That’s really the key thing about Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day, it’s about having a good time and enjoying yourself, all in aid of a good cause.”
Few groups can echo that fun loving sentiment stronger than McKesson Cork, who are based in the Airport Business Park and have been supporting Cork Simon for nearly 15 years. As important as the funds they raise each year are, McKesson’s Cliona Archer Good says the staff morale created by Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day can be just as critical.
“Cork Simon has always had a big place in our hearts, it means a lot to the whole team here to have been supporting such a fantastic cause, and one that’s so local to us, since 2009,” she shares. “McKesson has contributed to Cork Simon in lots of ways in that time, and we regularly donate sleeping bags, but the Christmas Jumper Day is a very special part of our work with the charity. It’s one we look forward to every year and it ties in really nicely with our wider Christmas celebrations at McKesson.
“We always get great footfall on site for Jumper Day, so we go all out for it and have lots of other fun events surrounding it. We’re putting on a free breakfast for everyone this year, and we always have a great raffle and some lovely presentations from our teams as well. With people working remotely or in hybrid roles, trying to get large numbers of us in at the same time can be tricky these days, but Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day seems to be one of those great events that everybody just wants to get involved in! It's really inclusive, so regardless of which team you're working with, or what part of the business you're in, Jumper Day is something that never fails to bring us all together, which is really special.
“We have an average of about 120 employees who take part in it each year, and some of them make a huge effort with lights, festive earrings, antlers and all sorts! For us it's about the ‘most fun’ more so than best dressed or anything like that, so those creative ones are fantastic to see.”
Amidst all the fun, however, the McKesson team never lose sight of the serious issues that make campaigns like Jumper Day necessary. “Cork Simon do such fantastic work to raise awareness around homelessness and what we can do to address it,” Cliona explains. “As a healthcare company, our top priority in everything we do at McKesson is to help people or improve their quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to us that we give back to the community however we can, and Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day is a fantastic opportunity to do that.
“Not only do our individual employees contribute by wearing their jumpers and donating what they can on the day, but McKesson always contributes a separate lump sum on behalf of the company too. It’s really important to us that we have buy-in from all sides, I think that’s what makes Jumper Day a success for us each year.”
Someone who understands just how important that buy-in can be is Gillian Vaughan of Model Farm Road Childcare, where children and staff alike are excitedly gearing up for Model Farm’s fifth year taking part in Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day. Catering to everything from toddlers’ daycare to children’s afterschool service, some of the older kids at Model Farm already have a strong grasp of why they’re having a Jumper Day, and why their fundraising matters.
“We’ve been having lots of conversations with the kids, particularly in our afterschool service, explaining to them that sadly not everyone has a home or a nice, comfy bed like we do,” Gillian shares. “They understand what we’re talking about quite quickly, even if they might not know what homelessness is just yet, they might have seen it around the city. It’s definitely those older children who have more questions for us when we talk about Jumper Day, so we explain to them why it’s important and nice to support people who don’t have the things they’d automatically have or might take for granted.”
It's not just in explaining these difficult topics to the children, however, where the brilliance of the staff at Model Farm Road Childcare shines through. They also go all out with their Jumper Day outfits each year, as Gillian points out. “Jumper Day is great for our staff and for the kids, because it’s something different. Besides the feel-good factor we get from supporting such a great cause, just dressing up adds a really fun element to the day! Some of the staff come in wearing full Christmas outfits or Christmas dresses and they even paint their faces. That always adds a nice conversation piece between the staff and the kids — they’re so surprised to see staff in something besides the usual everyday uniform! It's great to create that boost in morale among the employees and between the children themselves. On Cork Simon Christmas Jumper Day we also get the kids to showcase their Christmas crafts to the parents, and we put on a lovely event here for the families with tea and coffee and some treats. It's always a great time.”
For Model Farm Road Childcare and many others, special occasions like Jumper Day highlight just how magical Christmas can be for adults and children alike. However, for some, the festive period sadly isn’t always such a happy time.
Nobody wants their child to grow up to be homeless at Christmas, but it’s a sad reality for many.
This Christmas, people like *Jack are helping Cork Simon to get across just how easily it can happen, and how tragic a situation it can be.
Jack, who was made homeless at 17, has reflected on his experience as part of the charity’s latest campaign.