GMA began the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade in 1958 at the request of then-Governor Ernest Vandiver as a way of providing holiday gifts for the patients of Georgia's mental health and retardation hospitals. The program is also aimed at raising the awareness of the needs of Georgia's mental hospitals.
There are currently seven regional mental health hospitals in the state, serving some 3,200 Georgians. Many of these clients have lived in the hospital facility for much of their lives and receive little, if any, support from their families. Without the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade, the staff at these hospitals have told us, many of their clients would not receive a gift for the holidays.
The Christmas spirit demonstrated by cities during the Motorcade extends beyond the holiday season. Any gifts not handed out during Christmas are used for client birthdays or given to newly arrived clients, who may need many of the items. In this way, cities help the hospitals celebrate special occasions year-round and help the hospitals meet the needs of their clients.