Since 2009, the Goodman has been spreading holiday cheer to service men and women and their families during our annual production of A Christmas Carol with the special Community Day and Share the Joy Day events. It started simply enough. The final performance of A Christmas Carol in 2009 landed on New Year’s Eve, and, given the holiday, seats to the performance were readily available. Folks at the Goodman recognized this as an opportunity to share the fabulous production with a local, charitable partner and launched Community Day. Willa Taylor, Walter Director of Education and Community Engagement and a navy veteran, made no hesitation in her suggestion of the Illinois USO. That year, the Goodman provided 500 tickets to servicemen and women (and their families) who were about to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq; it was our small way to thank them for their service. The performance was flanked by lobby celebrations, including pre- and post show performances by the rock band Fair Herald, cameos by Illinois representatives Mike Quigley and family photos with Scrooge and Santa.

In 2010, the Goodman expanded its celebration and gave away every ticket to the final performance of A Christmas Carol. The primary beneficiary remained the Illinois USO, with additional families served by the Ronald McDonald House Charities and Snow City Arts Foundation, women and children from the Maria Shelter and men and women from the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. The lobby celebrations included a performance by ChiArts High School’s jazz band, costumed characters, cameos by Governor Pat Quinn and Albert Goodman and another New Year’s Eve launch.

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Nathaniel Buescher and Ron E. Rains pose with two guests at the 2014 Share the Joy Day.

With Community Day solidified as a Goodman Theatre tradition, each successive year has brought more opportunities to celebrate the Illinois USO, while partnering with new local charities, Goodman program participants, local musicians and performers. In 2013, the celebration formerly known as Community Day became Share the Joy Day, and moved from the end of the play’s run to the very first performance, making it the launch of A Christmas Carol season at the Goodman. Over the years, charitable beneficiaries have included Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, The Odyssey Project, the 100 Club of Chicago, Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers, the Warrenville Juvenile Detention Center, the Dovetail Project, 360 Youth Services, the Veterans Ticket Foundation, The Fraternal Order of Police and Children’s Memorial Hospital, as well as Goodman program participants from the Goodman Youth Arts Council, Student Subscription Series and GeNarrations. This year, the event also benefited organizations committed to eradicating violence from the streets of Chicago. Lobby performances and special appearances have included Terri Hemmert of WXRT, the Schurz High School choir, Chicago Math and Science Academy band and cast members from TV’s Chicago Fire. The seventh annual Share the Joy Day was celebrated this year on November 14, 2015, once again with the Illinois USO!