Globe Santa has been making Christmas merrier for local families since 1956, and for more than half its history, Eddie Doyle has been part of the effort.
Doyle is known throughout Greater Boston as a longtime bartender at Beacon Hill’s Bull & Finch Pub, later renamed Cheers in honor of the television show that took inspiration from the popular hangout. But these days, he may be more famous for his philanthropy than his whiskey sour.
Doyle, 73, said his support for Globe Santa began in 1980, with a conversation he had with John Grasso, now owner of the local Halfway Café chain.
“We were talking one night, and he said it would be great to do a charity campaign” at the Bull & Finch, Doyle said. “The next day, I saw an article in the Globe about kids trying to keep food on the table.”
Their first fund-raiser took in only $570, Doyle said, but in the years since it has grown, collecting thousands of dollars each Christmas in recent years. It has also moved, along with Doyle, who ended his career at Cheers when he was laid off in 2009 “due to the economy,” he said.
By that time, Doyle was at the center of a loyal group of volunteers, now known as the Spirited Bostonians, who came together every year to support Globe Santa. They were determined to keep the effort going, and in 2010 Tony Castagnozzi, co-owner of Rattlesnake Bar & Grill, invited them to bring the event to his restaurant.
Since then, “Rattlin’ Around the Christmas Tree” has become a new holiday tradition for the Spirited Bostonians and for many current and former Globe employees. This year’s event raised more than $20,000 for Globe Santa.
“He’s got a big heart,” said Sandi Russell, who described herself as “kind of Eddie’s right-hand person” and said she has been involved in Doyle’s annual Globe Santa fund-raisers since the beginning.
“He likes to give, especially to children,” Russell said.
Bruce Dean, another longtime volunteer, said all the organizers enjoy working together to plan the complex event, which includes live music and other entertainment, as well as a wide array of silent auction items.
It might never have been possible without Doyle’s skill and dedication. “He was the hub of our organization,” Dean said.
As he looked over the crowd from his barstool in the Rattlesnake, Doyle said he felt fortunate to be there at all. He recently underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy following a diagnosis of stage three colon cancer, but he now has a clean bill of health.
“I’m doing very good right now,” he said as friends crowded around, “which makes this even sweeter.”