It takes more than superhero outfits to make people superheroes. It's what they do when they wear them.
For the last two years, Dallas On-Air founder and On-Air Media founding partner Jantzen Ray and his girlfriend, Catherine Chensky, have turned their Christmas Day celebration into a chance to play Santa Claus and Spider-Man or Spider-Girl at the same time.
The couple spend the entire year building up a huge collection of new toys, and on Christmas, they drive around Dallas area neighborhoods and give them away to the children who didn't get visits from Santa. It's something they are so dedicated to doing that they plan their life around it.
"My whole year leads up to this one day for that child who didn't get anything at all for Christmas," Chensky says.
"I was driving home, and I see this little kid with his mom and little sister sitting at a bus stop. and he's just looking really miserable," Ray says. "I thought, 'How cool would it be to just pull over and give the kid a toy and just leave? It would brighten that kid's day.'"
Ray also had a cheap, adult-sized Spider-Man costume that he'd bought from a Spirit Halloween store. Since he couldn't include it in his box of gifts for the kids, he decided to wear it the entire day and play Spidey Claus.
"I'm just going to dress up like Spider-Man and give out all of these toys," Ray says. "It was just a random thought I had, so that's what we did. I dressed up as Spider-Man and drove around South Dallas giving toys to random kids we saw, and it was something else. We truly saved the day for those kids. They didn't get anything, and suddenly, Spider-Man is jumping out and giving them a bunch of toys."
"We got some serious cosplay, like a $300 Spider-Man outfit," Ray says. "It's really, really nice, and we also don't just do it on Christmas. Sometimes, I'll just randomly put on the Spider-Man outfit and go out and give out toys to random kids because that's actually how I got the idea."
The toy drive continues to gain popularity as more people see Ray and
"People loved it and wanted to join in, and we have people every year now who say, 'Can we come in and help pass out toys?'" Chensky says. "It just kind of did it on its own. People want to be there for the kids."
Ray and Chensky appreciate the help with their annual campaign; they've had a tough year. Ray got into an accident on his scooter. (He didn't sustain any serious injuries, but his scooter was totaled.) Chensky was laid off from her job a few weeks ago and is working two part-time jobs.
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"It has been rough, and we didn't even decide to do it until a couple of weeks ago," Chensky says. "The kids here in South Dallas, it breaks our heart to see them sitting
Ray says he feels a great sense of responsibility to keep up his Christmas tradition.
"I really believe that if you really want to change the world, you have to start with kids," he says. "I think that if you can show a kid that magic, it's something that sticks with them forever, or at least I hope, and just maybe, they're able to turn that around and give something back. I have to have hope that it lasts with them and carries them and they pass it on to other strangers."
Ray and Chensky are accepting donations for their Christmas toy drive on GoFundMe.