Substitutes for Santa back in full swing, giving 150 Horry County kids a Christmas to remember

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 8:08 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:04 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - More than 100 Horry County kids are heading home with presents to put under their Christmas trees thanks to the annual charity event Substitutes for Santa.

Grand Strand Young Professionals and SOS Care, who put on the event, have spent the last two years delivering gifts because of COVID-19.

But on Tuesday, Horry County students were able to go on a shopping spree in person.

The day started with picking up the students after school and taking them to the Fun Warehouse.

There, they ate dinner and enjoyed arcade games.

After the game tokens ran out, volunteers paired up with each student to take them shopping at Walmart.

Each child had $100 to spend on any gifts or toys they want to see Christmas morning.

Caroline Yahnis, the business development programs manager for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said she loves seeing the joy Substitutes for Santa brings to each kid.

“Giving them something to look forward to in an exciting evening really just brightens your spirits and holiday mood. Being able to spend time with these kids, they’re just lit up and excited to be there with you,” said Yahnis.

GSYP works closely with Horry County Schools to identify elementary-aged students who would benefit from Substitutes for Santa.

Volunteers sent each student home with a swag bag filled with basic needs like blankets, jackets, shampoo and toothbrushes.

Kristin Saurini has been a Substitute for Santa volunteer for nearly a decade and said her favorite part is seeing the look on kids’ faces as they pick presents.

“We can provide these kids with a magical holiday experience that they otherwise would not receive. Just like their eyes bring you back to childhood and just that innocence is something that you can never forget,” said Saurini.

After Walmart’s shelves are empty, they take the kids back to school followed by a truckload of their toys right behind.

Two Men and A Truck will help deliver the gifts to the appropriate schools for the children to take home.

Substitutes for Santa has given over 2,000 kids a special Christmas through the help of sponsors and fundraisers each year.

For more information about the event, click here.