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Christmas comes early for children in Poland Village

POLAND — Santa is coming to town a little early this year for children in the village, thanks to two parents who are working to bring their community together while honoring their daughter’s legacy.

Mike and Ashley Zembower, founders of the nonprofit organization Rosalie’s Forever Footprints, are launching what they hope will become a village tradition, The Poland Express. Santa and his sleigh, minus his reindeer who are still away at training, will be rolling through the village’s streets 5 to 8 p.m. today through Friday.

Santa and his helpers will be making nearly 45 stops at the homes of residents who volunteered to host a “Santa Stop” on The Poland Express. Parents and their children are encouraged to join the fun at the stop closest to them, which can be found via maps posted on Rosalie’s Forever Footprints website, www.rosalies

foreverfootprints.org, and its social media pages. Each stop will also have a “Santa Stop” sign in the front yard.

Each host was given creative freedom by the Zembowers to make their stop as magical as they desired, and some will feature hot chocolate bars, cookies and maybe a few classic Christmas sing-alongs. Santa will be collecting letters, so kids should come prepared with their wish lists with their return addresses on the envelopes.

Santa will end the week on Friday at North Elementary at approximately 6:30 p.m., followed by a stop at Poland Seminary High School. Those who missed Santa throughout the week are welcome to join him at either stop.

The organization behind the event, Rosalie’s Forever Footprints, was started by the Zembowers after the loss of their baby, Rosalie Noelle, in April 2020. They started the organization with the goal to bring their community together through projects and events, such as The Poland Express, that help better the community, enhance family engagement and create a lifetime of positive memories for children. The goals of the organization are a few of the dreams they had for their daughter, and the imprint she would have left on her community.

“The expectation for our children, all of them, has always been to do big things, great things, positive things,” Mike Zembower said. “Not to be millionaires, not to conquer the world, but to be ingrained in your community and make an impact.”

The Zembowers already have funded a Little Free Library in the village and have hosted several fundraisers to fund future projects in their eight months of operation. They have dreams of bettering the community through projects like rebuilding the North Elementary playground. They hope that projects such as the playground give Rosalie’s siblings — Robbie, Xander, Kalysta and another sibling on the way — something tangible to remember their sister.

While Rosalie isn’t here to form her own legacy, Mike and Ashley are making sure her name carries as much significance as the names of her siblings.

“We want to make Rosalie have the same level of impact that our other children are going to have on the community,” Mike Zembower said. “If Rosalie was with us, she would have made just as many friendships, and she would have done great things in the community, so we’re stepping in and trying to find a way to do that in her absence.”

Mike and Ashley said at one point they were afraid their daughter’s name would never be spoken — now it is becoming synonymous with the joy and excitement being brought to the community by their projects,such as The Poland Express.

While The Poland Express is no longer accepting hosts for the event, donations can be made at each stop to fund future projects by Rosalie’s Forever Footprints.

lnickel@tribtoday.com

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