Pandemic cancels Palatine pub crawl, but its mission to collect toys for kids continues
Nineteen years ago, pals Mike Zyer and Paul Munagian were hopping from bar to bar in downtown Palatine, taking pictures alongside Christmas decorations, when they had an idea: Why not turn it into a yearly event?
The "Mike and Paul Pub Crawl" at first was a way to have fun with family and friends, support local businesses and spread some holiday cheer, said Mike's wife, Beth Zyer.
Attendance grew over the years through word-of-mouth and social media. Eventually the pub crawl grew to incorporate a Toys for Tots drive in conjunction with American Legion Post 690 in Palatine. Toys for Tots is a nationwide program of the Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes the toys as Christmas gifts for needy children.
Last year, more than 100 people participated in the pub crawl that included raffles and yielded more than 200 toys, some dropped off and others purchased with cash donations, Beth Zyer said.
"It really warms your heart to see that," she said. "No matter what's going on in the world, people love Christmas and they want it to be good. People are super generous."
Beth Zyer now organizes the event with Brenda Munagian, Paul Munagian's wife, and friend Sue Hallsten, all of Palatine. Family and friends also buy toys online via an Amazon wish list and ship them to the organizers.
This year's pub crawl was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so as an alternative, the community is invited to bring toys to a drive-through donation Saturday in the parking lot of the American Legion post.
Toys need to be unwrapped and can be for any age up to teenagers.
"Sometimes people forget about the older kids because they're like, 'Oh, look at these cute toys," Beth Zyer said. "When we personally go shopping with the cash, we try to really cover all the bases."
The Toys for Tots collection in Palatine is organized by the Palatine Police and Fire Benevolent Association and features 50 to 70 boxes of toys, said firefighter Daniel Vrbancic, who coordinates the effort. The American Legion's donation, including proceeds from the pub crawl, is the largest locally, Vrbancic said.
"We are constantly bringing full boxes from there. They consistently fill out 10 to 15 boxes, if not more, every year."
This year there are 11 collection sites in the Palatine area, fewer than normal due to the pandemic. Toys will be collected Dec. 7 by the association and picked up Dec. 8 by the Marine Corps Reserve.
"Hopefully we can bring some children a better Christmas," Vrbancic said.
Those involved in the original "Mike and Paul Pub Crawl" are happy to see how much good it has done over the years, Beth Zyer said. "It really started because they were out one night having cocktails for the holidays ... and it really took on its own life."
How to contribute• Drive-through donation 12 to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of American Legion Post 690, 122 W. Palatine Road, Palatine
Collection boxes until Dec. 7 located at:
• Eickhorst Family Chiropractic, 5190 Euclid Ave., Palatine.
• Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School, 101 N. Oak St., Palatine.
• Lincoln School, 1021 N. Ridgewood Lane, Palatine.
• Palatine Bank & Trust, 110 W. Palatine Road and 988 E. Dundee Road, both in Palatine.
• Palatine Police Department, 595 N. Hicks Road.
• Palatine Village Hall, 200 E. Wood St.
• Palatine Township Elementary District 15, 580 N. 1st Bank Drive, Palatine.
• Walter R. Sundling Junior High School, 1100 N. Smith St., Palatine.
• Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, 1750 S. Roselle Road, Palatine.
• Palatine Rural Fire Protection District, 35 Ela Road, Inverness.
• Inverness Police Department, 1415 W. Baldwin Road.