Janet Mika placed a Christmas tree near Madra Dog, the 30-inch tall rottweiler statue at the end of her Madra Avenue driveway, and posted a December 8 invitation on the dog's Facebook page. She invited people to "add an ornament" to the tree that was to be given to a single-parent family on December 20.
Social media caused the plan to quickly grow into a food-and-gift drive for the family. In addition, Madra Dog fans decorated two donated trees that Mika and her brother Rick Albin delivered to families with foster children on December 18.
"I simply put pictures up; people did the rest," Mika said in an interview. She shares her home with golden retrievers Maggie and Clancy.
While this is the second Christmas for the statue that Mika began decorating in September 2012, it's the first one since she launched the Madra Dog Facebook page.
One of the trees and the gifts were for a family that Mika found through Beta Sigma Phi, an international women’s service organization. The family includes a woman with three teen-age sons and a daughter who is nearly 13. The woman works two jobs and couldn't afford a tree. Her daughter was "praying for a tree, and now Madra Dog is bringing her one," Mika said.
Within hours of Mika's first post, Doreen Karp wrote, "That's awesome! How about a food basket to go with the tree?"
People brought food at least twice a day, and Mika said the Facebook photo showed about half of what was donated, and the first tree was soon "completely decorated."
On December 9, John Robert Crawford, a member of the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club, commented, "All proceeds from the Kiwanis Christmas-tree lot on Zion Avenue go to charity, so if you need a second tree, come on down and see us!"
Mika did, accompanied by “Flat Stanley” Madra Dog, a life-size photograph of the statue. Mika posted a picture of Stanley at the lot along with news that the Kiwanis donated two more trees. People brought canine ornaments, including a black Labrador in a Santa hat and one depicting a paw.
People also asked for information so they could give presents to the family of five. Mika posted information about the ages and sizes of the children. People donated clothing, gift cards, and other items. They also brought cameras, dogs, or both. "There were a lot of selfies with the trees, and a lot of dogs," said Mika.
Facebook comments often included the word "awesome,” as people praised Madra Dog for coordinating the project. Someone told Mika that she had started a tradition. "Their comments feel so good. Now I am in the Christmas sprit," she said.
She may have a present for Madra Dog fans: "I'm thinking that one week out of each month [next year] that anyone can decorate Madra Dog," Mika said.
(corrected 12/27, 6:30 p.m.)