04 Dec

Bristol’s own ‘Santa House’ exudes Christmas spirit

BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Santa Claus has moved into America’s most patriotic town. The so-called “Santa House” magically appeared in downtown Bristol just after Thanksgiving. It’s the brainchild of Michael Rielly, a lifelong Bristolian and founder of the James D. Rielly Foundation.

“Folks all know Bristol for the Fourth of July, but it’s also very much a Hallmark-type location,” Rielly explained.

Rielly, who has also dubbed himself the chief merriment officer, said the Santa House offers children of all ages and abilities the chance to celebrate the holidays.

“What we’re trying to do here is create a place where kids with special needs and their families can come and share Christmas their wishes with Santa,” Rielly explained. “We really wanted to create a place just for them. It’s going to be open for other kids and it’s going to be open to the public, but this is the real purpose of the Santa House.”


29 Aug

The James D. Rielly Foundation Introduces the Bristol Santa House

Bristol Santa House

The Bristol Santa House will benefit children with special needs and their families regardless of circumstance

Bristol, Rhode Island (PRWEB) 9/1/2022 – Since 2017, the James D. Rielly Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit all-volunteer organization, has helped bring Christmas cheer year-round to children and families throughout Rhode Island and Southern New England. Today, the organization announced they are bringing a real live Santa Claus House to Bristol, Rhode Island.

The Bristol Santa House will be a one-of-a-kind place for children of all ages and abilities to share holiday wishes, drop off a letter to Santa, or even meet the head elf himself, regardless of physical, mental, or financial challenges. The goal of the Santa House is to create a family-friendly holiday destination full of joy, whimsy, and nostalgia, where the season comes alive through interactive experiences and Hallmark-worthy moments.

“Every child deserves to experience the joy of Christmas regardless of circumstance,” stated Michael Rielly, founder and chief merriment officer of the James D. Rielly Foundation. “Sadly, many children with special needs never have the opportunity to meet with Santa, and some families simply cannot afford Christmas gifts.”

The Santa House will be stocked with new unwrapped toys and clothing items so that children in need can receive a gift during the holiday season, free of charge. The James D. Rielly Foundation and other charitable organizations will donate toys and clothing items.

“Every child deserves to experience the joy of Christmas regardless of circumstance,” stated Michael Rielly, founder and chief merriment officer of the James D. Rielly Foundation.

With the support of town officials and local businesses, the James D. Rielly Foundation believes the Bristol Santa Claus House will become a popular attraction in the East Bay and, possibly, all of Rhode Island. The Santa Claus House will also be accessible to other charities and community organizations focused on helping families or children in need.

“We believe the Bristol Santa House will create cherished and lasting memories for families and children for years to come,” reiterated Michael Rielly.

The James D. Rielly Foundation will fund the construction of the Bristol Santa House; however, they are seeking sponsors to assist with providing gifts to needy families.

For information on opportunities for sponsorship or support for the Bristol Santa House, please contact the James D. Rielly Foundation at: www.jdrfoundation.org


For information on opportunities for sponsorship or support for the Bristol Santa House, download the 2022 Bristol Santa House Sponsorship Kit below.

01 May

Happy Birthday Santa!

James D. Rielly

Today is the 113 year anniversary of Jim Rielly’s birthday.

Born in 1908, James (Jim) D. Rielly was a lifelong resident of Bristol Rhode Island. His love for country and community was immediately evident when you met him. In many ways, he was Bristol’s unofficial Ambassador. To paraphrase Yeats: There were no strangers to Jim Rielly; only friends he had not yet met.

Jim Rielly was well known throughout Rhode Island and much of New England for his generosity and countless charitable acts; but most notably, Jim Rielly was known as Rhode Island’s most famous Santa Claus.

His first appearance as Santa Claus was in 1927 at the beginning of the Great Depression. At the age of 19, the young Jim Rielly portrayed Santa Claus for a family living in an abandoned chicken coup.

For the next 62 years, Jim Rielly would continue to appear as Santa Claus wherever he was needed, but primarily at charitable events, nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages, military bases, and private homes.

James D. Rielly Foundation
James D. Rielly Foundation

He took no payment for any of his appearances.

On January 31, 1979 he was entered into the United States Senate Congressional Record as “James D. Rielly – A truly remarkable Santa Claus from Rhode Island”. And on December 22, 2010, he was one of the inaugural inductees into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.

James D. Rielly died on November 26, 1991 at the age of 83.

In honor of his kindness and charitable works, the James D. Rielly Foundation was established to preserve his legacy by providing charitable support to the children and the families of military and first responders hindered by economic status, physical or mental challenges.

Please consider making a donation to the James D. Rielly Foundation. Your donation is 100% tax deductible and will help bring unconditional love, hope, and joy to needy children and families.

20 Mar

Help Us Make History!

We are excited to be participating in this year’s 401Gives! Please support us by visiting 401gives.org on April 1. ANY donation — even $1 — is greatly appreciated!

Questions? If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us! Thank you in advance for your generosity to our organization!

28 Apr


James D. Rielly Foundation Board Member, Jodi Leffingwell and her daughter Abbey put together this wonderful video thanking everyone in our community who are on the front lines making sure we stay safe and healthy and have access to essentials.

They are the real heroes!

Music sung and performed by Jodi and Abbey Leffingwell

26 Dec

Michael Rielly Inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly, founder and president of the James D. Rielly Foundation has been inducted into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.

Providence, RI USA (PRWEB) – 12/22/2019 – The James D. Rielly Foundation, announced today that founder and president Michael Rielly, has been named to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame for his contributions to the Santa Claus community and his charitable work as Santa Claus.

Located in Santa Claus Indiana, the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame is the home of the celebration and study of famous Santa Clauses and Mrs. Clauses of the past and present. This ongoing project is meant to preserve the historical documentation of the many men and women who have greatly contributed to the Legend of Santa Claus.

Nominees were evaluated on eight criteria: overall career, range of appearances, length of service, uniqueness of career, charity, originality, contribution to the Santa world, and service to their community.

A resident of Bristol Rhode Island, Michael Rielly has been described as “Rhode Island’s premier Santa” and an “expert in Santa Claus and all things Christmas”.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame, and I’m humbled to be included in the company of such great Santas and Mrs. Clauses,” said Michael Rielly. “I truly feel blessed”.

In 2010, Michael Rielly’s grandfather, James D. Rielly, also of Bristol RhodeIsland, was one of the inaugural inductees into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.

Michael Rielly founded the ClausNet Santa Claus Network in 2007 – the largest community and resource for men and women actors dedicated to the traditions and faithful portrayal of Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and all others who devote their time to bringing the magic of Christmas to children of all ages throughout the world.

In 2017, Michael Rielly established the James D. Rielly Foundation; a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization providing support to the children and families of Veterans, active and reserve military, law enforcement, and first responders.

For more information about the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame, visit www.santaclaushall.com.

For more information about the James D. Rielly Foundation, visit www.jdrfoundation.org.

11 Dec

James D. Rielly Foundation Helps Santa Visit Those in Need

December 11, 2019

Bristol resident Michael Rielly spreads Christmas cheer by making appearances as Santa Claus in Rhode Island for local children or families in need.

There’s a real life Santa Claus living right here in Rhode Island. Michael Rielly is from Bristol, Rhode Island, and he donates his time and talent to those who are in need by making appearances as Santa Claus.

Representing Santa is a Rielly family tradition that was started by Michael’s grandfather, James D. Rielly, during the Great Depression. In 2017, Michael established a nonprofit in his grandfather’s name to preserve his legacy and continue his work of spreading holiday cheer.

Read the full article

21 Jul

Amica Downtown Jingle 5K

We are very excited to announce that we will be participating in this year’s Amica Mutual Insurance Co. Downtown Jingle 5k!

Amica Downtown Jingle 5K

Come join us at this year’s Rhode Island Jingle 5k Run/Walk in downtown Providence Rhode Island. Enjoy the comforts of the Rhode Island Convention Center before and after the 5k. Live band will be entertaining before and after the run. And you might even get to meet the big guy in red himself!

Race Overview

Date: Sunday, December 1, 2019
Start: 9:00 AM, Kids Run 8:30 AM
Start Location: Rhode Island Convention Center


15 Oct

Rhode Island Santa Claus

Letters to Santa Claus

Rhode Island Santa Claus received hundreds of letters from children

For years, children all over the world have been sending letters to Santa Claus. During the 1950s through the 1980s many of those letters were delivered to Jim Rielly’s house in Bristol Rhode Island.

Over the years the post office delivered hundreds of letters to Jim’s home. And in true Santa Claus style, Jim would reply to each and every one.

11 Sep

4 Ways to Thank a First Responder on September 11

September 11, 2001

Today, on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we honor our police, firefighters, EMTs, and all those who serve and have served in our armed forces. Day in and day out, these brave men and women put their lives on the line to keep us safe. But what makes these folks even more special, is that they go to work for their communities’ every day without expecting recognition.

We believe that September 11 is the perfect day to show them our gratitude for their service. Here are four ways you can thank the first responders and military personnel in your community.

4 Ways You Can Say Thank You To Our First Responders on September 11

When you see a firefighter, police officer, EMT, or military personnel, thank them. It doesn’t have to be a long speech. Something as simple as “Thank you for your service” will go a long way at showing them that you appreciate them.

One of the most powerful ways you can thank our first responders is to put it in writing. Send a hand-written card or letter to a local police or fire station. If you want to make a bigger impression, gather several letters and cards from the community and deliver them personally. You would be surprised the power of writing a simple “thank you” card has.

Maybe they are sitting at a table across from you at a restaurant, or behind you in line at the grocery store, or the drive-thru. Consider paying for them. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big impact.

You can show your support by donating to or supporting organizations whose purpose is to support first responders, military personnel and their families.

First responders and military personnel serve our communities daily and do so without expecting any gratitude. While we encourage everyone to appreciate what these individuals do each day, please take a moment on this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, to recognize the men and women who continually and tirelessly serve to keep us safe.