US Coast Guard gives away 1,200 Christmas trees to Chicago families in need

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 1,200 people are able to decorate their homes for the holidays thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard and Chicago's maritime community.

Chicago's Christmas Tree Ship arrived at Navy Pier Friday morning.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw traveled south from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, with the special mission to deliver 1,200 Christmas trees two weeks ahead of Christmas. The tradition dates back to the late 1800s.

A musical ceremony was held Saturday before the trees were distributed to families in need.

WATCH: Christmas Tree Ship docks at Navy Pier
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Chicago's Christmas Tree Ship sailed into Navy Pier Friday morning.

The original ship named the Rouse Simmons was a three-masted schooner that was easily recognized by the waiting crowds when they saw a Christmas tree tied to her main mast and her decks loaded with thousands of trees destined for Chicago families.

In 1912, the Christmas Tree Ship tradition halted after a fatal ship wreck. During that winter, 16 crew members died.

In addition to delivering this year's Christmas trees, the Crew of Mackinaw stopped to drop a wreath in Lake Michigan to honor the fallen crew members.

Captain Dave Truitt founded Chicago's Christmas Ship Committee, which restarted the beloved tradition 20 years ago.

"We believe that every kid should have a Christmas, and our story, as most of you know, is about bringing Christmas trees to kids who would not have Christmas trees," Truitt said.
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