About Us

A Great Chicago Story

Chicago’s Christmas Ship was founded in 2000 by a group of mariners, coming from commercial, recreational and military fields, who wanted to do something special – give Christmas trees to disadvantaged families who would not otherwise be able to have a Christmas tree. A committee was formed to do just that, acting as an activity of the Navy League. "All Tree Donations Used Exclusively for The Designated Charitable Purpose, 100% of the donated funds are used to provide Christmas trees to deserving, less fortunate and disadvantaged families through Ada S. McKinley Community Services, and other third party, independently selected charities. No other use of these funds is allowed and no participating organization or volunteer receives any compensation or reimbursement from these donations." The Committee receives separate underwriting and in-kind donations to provide festivities for the surrounding events it sponsors. The Committee has raised has raised sufficient funds to allow them to present fresh cut individual Christmas trees to over twelve thousand deserving families during the first ten years of this program.  Now it is hoped that approximately1,500 trees will be able to be awarded to Chicago area families every Christmas season.

Rouse Simmons

It all started on board the US Coast Guard’s icebreaker MACKINAW during the start of the 2000 Chicago to Mackinac race when the topic of conversation came to the story of Captain Herman Schuenemann’s famed Christmas tree ship, the ROUSE SIMMONS. The ship sank in 1912 with the loss of all hands on a voyage bringing Christmas trees to Chicago where they were to be sold on the Chicago River at Clark Street. This evolved into an idea for a way to do something meaningful for the Chicago inner city community based on the story and tie it in with regular training exercises for MACKINAW. Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee would be formed to raise funds to purchase the trees. The trees would be brought to Navy Pier on board MACKINAW and distributed to disadvantage families selected by a third party. The event was a huge success and quickly became an annual tradition.

In 2004 the City of Chicago recognized this great Chicago story by a proclamation of the mayor and the city council honoring Chicago’s Christmas Ship.