Mark Chalifoux

Mark Chalifoux

Mark Chalifoux is a stand-up comedian who has been featured on Fox and IFC and has made national radio appearances on The Bob and Tom Show, SiriusXM and BBC Radio. As a writer, Mark has contributed to ESPN.com, CBS Digital, The Baltimore Sun, The Cincinnati Enquirer and The Chalifoux Family Christmas Newsletter. Mark is the father to a beautiful and amazing daughter and her sister.

Malls Open Early So Kids With Autism Can Meet Santa In a Calm Setting

Santa Lays on Floor For Child With Autism
(Autism Speaks)

Taking your kids to meet Santa is a wholesome family tradition. You get to drive to an always-crowded suburban mall, spend 10 minutes circling for a parking spot, wait in a long line to meet Santa, and then take a picture of your kid crying when he comes face to face with the most magical person in their world. It really is pretty special.

And for some parents, especially those who have children with special needs, participating in these routine traditions can be a much tougher hurdle to clear. This is why Autism Speaks is hosting “Santa Cares” events at malls across the country, where kids with special needs can visit with Santa in a less frenetic setting.

On those days, the malls open early to help facilitate a smaller crowd, the music plays a little quieter, and the lights are a little lower. Santa also has training for children with special needs. Often times they’ll stand behind their chairs or lay on the ground to make sure the children are comfortable. All of this combines to create a much more accessible experience for kids who need it.

 

Autism Speaks partnered with Cherry Hill Programs to produce the events, which include special training for the Santas so they can better interact with special needs children.

“Our goal is to create a more inclusive world for people with autism, and events like this make such a meaningful impact in helping families feel comfortable, understood and accepted,” said a spokesperson at Autism Speaks.

There are hundreds of events planned around the country, to find a sensory-friendly Santa experience near you, check out the Autism Speaks website.

NFL Star Pays off $80k in Holiday Layaway Accounts at Hometown Walmart

Khalil Mack Pays off Layaway Debt
(Getty/Quinn Harris)

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack recently played hometown Santa when he paid off all the layaway items at a Walmart in Florida. Hundreds of families will have a happier Christmas as the Pro Bowler’s gift totaled nearly $80,000. The store tweeted about the heartwarming gesture.

“We have some wonderful News! If you have an active Holiday Layaway account at your local Ft. Pierce Wal-Mart, your account has been paid off! We here at Walmart would like to thank the Khalil Mack Foundation for your generosity, and for making so many families happy for the holidays!”

The Khalil Mack foundation approached the Walmart with interest in brightening the holidays for the community as a “secret santa”, which, admittedly, lost a lot of its secrecy when the store openly tweeted about it. Still, it’s a baller move to bring some Christmas joy to his community.

Mack, a former defensive player of the year and Pro Bowl regular, is a terrifying presence on the field, as he destroys offensive lines on the reg.

But it’s his big heart that’s earning him praise now. Mack has always been a big supporter of his community, as just earlier this year he donated cleats to everyone on the football team at his former high school.

Tis the season for heartwarming gestures from pro athletes, as this move comes just weeks after one star paid thousands to clear a middle school’s lunch debt.

Keanu Day: The Matrix 4 and John Wick 4 Share Same Release Date

Keanu Sequel Day
(Warner Bros./Lionsgate)

Keanu Reeves is having a resurgence over the past few years, and his apex is on the horizon, as we finally have a release date for the much-awaited Matrix sequel: May 21, 2021. Oh, and we also have a release date for the next installment of his beloved John Wick franchise and it is…May 21, 2021.

That’s right, the spring weekend will feature an epic Keanu v. Keanu box office showdown. Many have already started to call it “Keanu Day”, as the two mammoth titles will hit theaters at the exact same time.


In fairness, Keanu Reeves is the only actor who could compete with a Keanu Reeves opening. And while opening against a huge movie may be seen as a deterrent, it could actually help both films in this case as folks go out of their way to hit both.

It’s not yet clear which film would garner the bigger opening weekend. The Matrix 4 is a sequel to a beloved franchise, and there’s bound to be more than a healthy dose of nostalgia involved. And while some of the enthusiasm for the film may be tempered by the first lackluster sequels (2 and 3 both left fans dissatisfied), it’s hard to see how this could go wrong.

And you can’t sleep on John Wick 4 either, as that franchise doesn’t have any nostalgia factor, but does have a strong ass-kicking factor, one that has propelled it to strong box office openings. Case in point, John Wick 3 was the film that finally knocked Avengers Endgame out of the top spot at the box office.

It is possible that one of the films may change their release date, but for now, maybe block off the entire weekend for one giant Keanu celebration.

If you can’t wait for some Keanu content, check out how one artist worked him into the lives of every Disney Princess or check him out in the SpongeBob trailer.

Walmart Apologizes for Cocaine Santa Christmas Sweater, Things Get Ugly

Cocaine Santa Sweater
(Walmart Canada)

It’s hard to introduce a new element to something as rigid as the holiday season and see it really take hold. One tradition that has brought some levity to December: the ugly Christmas sweater.

The ugly sweater phenomena traces its roots to the 1980s and Bill Cosby (yikes), but it’s only within the last decade-plus that ugly Christmas sweaters have earned a prominent place on the fringes of the Holiday Party Season. The craze has resulted in an influx in specialty Christmas sweaters, but you can go too far, which is what Walmart learned when they had to apologize for their sweater featuring (checks notes)…Santa in front of a table of cocaine.

The sweater has an excitable yet crazed Santa is shown in front of a table featuring clear lines of “snow”, along with the expression “Let It Snow”. OK, so, that couuuuld be ambiguous, right? Maybe we all just have sick minds and are jumping to conclusions. Let’s check the product description to find some redeeming counterarguments.

“The best snow comes from South America” ok welp, end of argument. If you need more, there’s this: “santa likes to savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A snow from Colombia.” It even goes on to say “he packs it in perfect lines on his coffee table and then takes a big whiff to smell the high quality aroma of the snow.” I mean, all that’s missing is giant font spelling out “YOU KNOW THIS IS COCAINE, RIGHT???”

Walmart apologized for the sweater, and blamed it on a third party seller and that it does not represent “their values.”

Now the government of Columbia is threatening to sue Walmart.

“The Walmart sweater is an offense to the country,” said Camilo Gómez Alzate, director of Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State, according to the Washington Post and El Tiempo. “It generates damage to the legal products of Colombia and damage to the country’s reputation. Although Walmart apologized, the damage was done.”

The agency is asking Walmart to pay monetary damages. If Walmart fails to comply, they plan to file a lawsuit.

Either way, you’ll have to get your cocaine Santa elsewhere now (try Kohl’s).

Son Inherits Late Dad’s “Mountain Santa” Tradition for Poor Community

Mountain Santa Son
(Courier Journal)

For more than four decades, a Kentucky man dedicated his Christmas season to delivering presents to some of the poorest kids in his community. Dubbed the “Mountain Santa,” Mike Howard would hand-deliver thousands of presents every year to kids who may not have had a Christmas otherwise.

In early 2018, the Mountain Santa lost his battle with cancer. His wife passed away several months after that. But the legacy of giving and the spirit of the Mountain Santa would live on, as his son assumed the role and continued the tradition.

He’s currently preparing for his second season as the Mountain Santa of Harlan County, Kentucky. The man, Jordan Howard, said they have collected nearly 1,000 presents and will distribute 3,000 to 4,000 by Christmas. He said they collect money through fundraisers and toy donations at the ‘workshop’, which is the building where he and family members wrap all of the gifts. If the story isn’t sweet enough for you yet, the workshop is not far from a road named “Santa Lane,” which, I mean, c’mon.

Jordan says he’s excited for Christmas, and that continuing the custom is what helps him keep the spirit and memory of his parents. It’s his tribute to them to continue the giving tradition. And he told a local Kentucky TV station the support of the community blows him away.

“It’s a feeling that you can’t describe, you don’t think that a community would come together like they have to keep doing this but it’s just awesome. It’s just amazing… it’s just, it’s something,” he said.

“Dad told before he passed, he said you gotta have the lord in it, so that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

He said they will be making their first deliveries in mid-December, and the spirit of the Mountain Santa will live on, making Christmas for hundreds of Kentucky families a little brighter.

Photo of Dad Who Wanted One Last Beer With His Sons Goes Viral

(Twitter/AdamSchemm)

It was a simple photo of a sweet moment, and it went viral the moment it was shared. It was a simple tribute to a grandfather:

“My grandfather passed away today. Last night all he wanted to do was to have one last beer with his sons.”

We shared it here at The Dad, and so did nearly 35,000 other people. The tweet was liked more than 300,000 times, as the moment resonated with people around the nation.

87-year old Norbert Schemm passed away from stage 4 colon cancer and the poignant photo was shared by his grandson Adam. He told USA Today the moment was too good not to share with the world.

“It just seemed like a really good family moment and you can kind of see the look and the smile on his face,” he said. “I can tell my grandfather’s smiling, at least trying to. They all are accepting what’s going to happen but they really cherish this last moment that meant a lot to them.”

He said he didn’t expect the crazy response to the photo and that he’s enjoyed talking about his grandfather, who has been described as a kind, strong, hardworking, and loving person. The tweet has generated dozens of responses from other people sharing similar stories of their sweet last moments with loved ones.

One of his sons told a Wisconsin newspaper that it was a fitting end for his dad.

“Everybody that he touched, that knew him, he left an impact,” he said. “And being able to go out this way, it’s just unbelievable.”

Jimmy Kimmel Wrote a Children’s Book to Raise Money for Hospitals

Jimmy Kimmel Reads The Silly Goose
(Twitter/jimmykimmel)

Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has added another title to his entertainment resume: children’s author. Kimmel wrote and illustrated a children’s book, The Serious Goose, which is on sale now. And Kimmel had a good reason behind his literary foray: he’s donating all the proceeds to children’s hospitals across the country.

“I thought writing a children’s book would be a very easy thing. I look through them, there are, like, 13 words in the whole book. What’s hard about this? But I also decided to illustrate it,” Kimmel told People Magazine. “What really took more time than anything was the lettering. As I was writing the word ‘goose’ for the thousandth time in a row, I regretted that.”

The story is about a Serious Goose that needs help from kids to cheer up. Kimmel said the inspiration came from trying to cheer up his daughter when she was younger. Donating the proceeds was an easy decision for Kimmel, who wanted to give back to hospitals like the one who cared for his son when he had to have multiple heart surgeries in his early months.

Kimmel told Entertainment Weekly that he wanted to do something big for the hospitals.

“Those hospitals, the work they do, and how under-appreciated they are, is actually shocking to me. It’s great to raise awareness and money. No matter what side you’re on, [who] doesn’t support donating to children’s hospitals?” he said.

And if you really need a review, at least his kids like The Serious Goose.

You can grab a copy of the book here.

Just a heads up, if you buy stuff using the provided links, The Dad may collect a small commission.

NFL Standout Pays off $27k in Middle School Lunch Debt

Richard Sherman Clears Lunch Debt
(Getty/Otto Greule Jr)

Some athletes are celebrated for their on-field accomplishments and for showing who they are between the lines or when the ball is in the air. Others recognize the importance of having a platform and use it to help people off the field. The truly great are remembered for both. 49ers defensive back, Richard Sherman, falls into that latter category.

The standout cornerback was honored last week by the NFLPA as the Community MVP of the week, thanks to his work through his charity Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation. His work didn’t stop there, as Sherman made the news the next day as he personally delivered a check to a middle school in Santa Clara for nearly $7,500 to clear out the school’s existing lunch debt.

The principal announced the gift from Sherman and released a pretty funny photo of the two of them. The principal attributed the 49ers dominating win over the Packers to karma from the gesture.

Principal Stan Garber poses with 49ers Richard Sherman
(Cabrillo Middle School)

“Richard’s gesture created such good will for the 49ers that they went on to sack Aaron Roger’s and the Green Bay Packers the next day on national tv by a score of 37-8,” he wrote. He told ABC the donation was the ‘kindest, most generous thing’ someone has done for the students, 60 of whom will benefit directly.

Sherman has made this play before, as he donated $20,000 to Tacoma Public Schools to clear meal debt earlier this year. His foundation also released a letter explaining why they are focused on eliminating student lunch debt.

“We have found that eliminating student lunch debt is one way to help assist students and their families in relieving some of the stress that comes with attending school on a daily basis,” they said. “The last thing any child should have to worry about is being able to afford eating breakfast and lunch at school; we aim to do our part in eliminating that obstacle.”

It’s just one more in a long line of classy moves from an integral part of the NFL’s best defense.

Brace Yourselves, America Could Be Facing a French Fry Shortage

Dad Eating Fries with Son
(Getty/Petri Oeschger)

Thanks to a damaged crop in the United States and Canada, we may be headed for a French fry shortage.

Please, do not panic. If you act quickly there’s no need for alarm. As long as that quick action is to buy ALL the fries currently available at your local grocery store, asap.

A report in Bloomberg earlier this week detailed the situation. Basically, it boils down to this: you, specifically, need to stop eating fries. Give them up cold turkey, so there will be enough for me.

Scientifically speaking, the colder weather, snow, and rain put a pretty sizable dent into the potato crop, dropping output by more than five percent. The output will be at its lowest since 2010 (which was way before people even began eating fries).

On top of that, the potatoes that make great French fries (ie-big, delicious potatoes) are the ones that seem to be hit the hardest.

“French fry demand has just been outstanding lately, and so supplies can’t meet the demand,” said a spokesperson for the Idaho Potato Commission.

Even Good Morning America is starting to freak out a little bit.

Experts think the situation won’t get completely out of control (there’ll still be on the menu at McDonald’s), but that’s also pretty much what experts say right before something gets out of control. I mean, everything will probably be OK, but look out for one another, just in case.

Football Player Takes to Field With Dogs After Losing Both Parents

Josh Butler Takes the Field with Dogs
(Twitter/JoshButlerTv)

One of the high points for every college football season is senior day. No matter how the season has gone up to that point, emotions are always on high as the seniors take the home field one final time. They are usually accompanied by their parents, as a way of saying ‘Thank you’ for all the support over the years.

The ritual was a bittersweet one this past weekend for Michigan State defensive back Josh Butler, as both of his parents are deceased. Butler didn’t take the field alone, though, as he was accompanied by his two best friends.

The boxer-bulldog mixes he adopted after his dad passed away.

The cornerback and pups took to the field for thunderous applause from the Spartan faithful. Butler was appreciative of the support from this Michigan State family, helping him through an emotional day. He lost his mother in the spring to breast cancer, and his dad to a heart attack several years prior.

The dogs, Roxy and Remi, seemed overjoyed at the attention and getting to take the field, but that wasn’t the first time fans got a glimpse of the duo. The dogs have their own Instagram account, with more followers than most college football players.

The Spartan took to Instagram to talk about his journey to Senior Day.

“Definitely been a blessed journey since taking the greyhound bus as a kid all the way up to Michigan State, being able to prevail through losing my father in 2017, and seeing my mother pass away in my arms just this year in April from Cancer,” Butler said on Instagram. “It has strengthened me as a person, man of God, and leader.”

Dad Shares Daughter’s Christmas List, Which Only Totals $10,000

Christmas List
(Twitter/a_johnson412)

A time-honored holiday tradition among parents is roasting their kid’s Christmas lists. There comes a time for kids when they are starting to outgrow the adorable Christmas phase when their eyes light up at every sighting of Santa or a Reindeer, and transition into a more transactional phase, where they see Christmas as little more than a personal toy ATM. And that’s when Christmas Lists usually break into the realm of ridiculous.

One dad shared his 10-year-old daughter’s list on social media and it went viral for its total cost. If “Santa” was going to come through and deliver on every outlandish request on her list, it would cost a cool $10,000.

Admittedly, we’ve all been versions of this girl. How long can we tell kids to “aim for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll end up among the stars” (scientifically inaccurate, btw) without expecting them to apply it everywhere? For this girl, missing the moon still means ending up with a brand new iPhone.

Also among her wishes were a brand new Macbook, some more big-ticket items from Gucci, Chanel, and Apple, and a pet bunny. I think my favorite entry on the entire list though is the “$4,000.” She just straight-up asks for cash, after meticulously listing out everything she could possibly want. And that seems like such a specific number, too. Maybe she’s thinking “OK if Santa can’t find an alarm clock, I will accept several thousand dollars in currency instead.”

And sure, most of us haven’t broken five-figures with our wish lists, but we have all had that one item that was probably a step too far for “Santa.” Every year, one of my daughters’ wishes for a pony, without even once considering the logistics of how that could work in the suburbs. Nobody is walking their horse down the sidewalk.

While it’s fun to see a three-year-old’s Christmas wish come true, it’s also equally important to reign those pre-teens in, and get them used to the crushing disappointments of the real world.

Dad Completely Unravels After Losing Daughter’s Hamster

Dad Loses Daughter's Hamster
(Twitter/stephyj725)

When his daughter went off to college, a single dad became the sole caregiver to her hamster. He didn’t think much of the ‘rodent’ at first, but he quickly grew to love and dote on little “Chester.” And one of his most traumatic days came when he had to call his daughter and break the news that Chester had escaped from his cage.

His daughter revealed her dad’s struggle through a series of sceenshotted text messages she posted on Twitter. It’s a roller coaster of emotion that reveals just how much this dad loved his hamster, and what it meant to his daughter.

It started with one of the most terrifying messages you can get from a parent, “Please call me as soon as you get this it’s an emergency.” He then explained the situation, and his daughter tried to calm him down. He then said, “Oh my god I’m so sorry honey I’m so sorry I’m looking everywhere.” And then “I’m so wicked sorry I’ll keep looking all day.”

At one point, he says he’s going to skip work the next day to look for Chester. His daughter responds “Dad you shouldn’t skip work you are a lawyer and he is a hamster.”

He pulled out all the stops to find him, including setting out some food with a ring of flour around it so he could try to follow the footsteps. Of course, you know how this ends. You wouldn’t see it on The Dad if the conclusion was the hamster being lost and the family being shattered by the tragedy. The dad came through and was reunited with his furry buddy.

“I’m an empty nester now. I don’t have a lot to take care of, and I almost screwed up the one thing I have,” he told TODAY Parents. He said the only thing he could think as he walked around on his hands and knees with a flashlight looking was how he was going to explain it to his daughter.

“I had a meltdown,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was having a freaking heart attack.”

And now that he’s reunited with his little pal, he’s going out of his way to spoil him.

“I went to Petco and cleaned the place out,” he said. “He’s going to look like Santa Claus just in time for Christmas.”

Color Blind Boy Sees Color for the First Time and Bursts Into Tears

Colorblind Boys Sees Color
(Twitter/BenJones_5)

A severely color blind 12-year-old boy in Minnesota got the shock of a lifetime when his principal, who also suffers from severe color blindness, let him wear a special pair of glasses to see color for the first time.

The 7th-grade class was learning about color blindness when the principal came in to show the boy, Jonathan, a whole new way of looking at the world. When Jonathan swapped out his regular glasses for the specialty pair, he immediately let out a laugh and a smile. He was quickly overcome with emotion, though, and immediately burst into tears.

The principal comforted the boy with a hug and told the boy to keep the glasses for a few days to experience a world of color. Jonathan keeps a smile plastered on his face as he explores the classroom in a new way in a now-viral video posted by his brother.

His mom started a GoFundMe to raise money to buy him a pair of the glasses, which cost nearly $350 per pair.

“After posting a video on social media of Jonathan seeing color for the first time, we have been overwhelmed by how many kind, generous people have wanted to help him get a pair of his own color blind glasses,” his mother wrote.

“Thank you all for your love and compassion. We are overwhelmed and encouraged to know there are so many amazing people in this world who would help a young man they have never met.”

Days after starting it, they have raised more than $27,000. The boy’s mother said all of the extra money raised will go towards purchasing pairs of glasses for other kids suffering from colorblindness.

“We are BLOWN AWAY with the generosity you have all shown Jonathan,” she said.

That definitely is up there with some of the other great fundraisers we’ve covered here before.