Note: This story appears in the Tuesday, Nov. 17 edition on page A1.
Grab your computers and little ones — Athens CASA/GAL will be hosting Santa for an online meet-up scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5 from 10-11:30 a.m.
“We’re really excited about it — of course we’re bummed to not be in-person with the community, we always look forward to that every year,” said Jenny Stotts, director of the Athens CASA/GAL program. “The Reindeer Run is definitely a fun run, as people dress up and really get into their costumes, so we are of course missing that chance, but I think this was a really good way to still safely offer a winter event and still get to connect with the community.
The program provides volunteer, court-appointed special advocates for children involved with court proceedings. The volunteers build relationships with individual children or siblings, then use what they learn to make an informed, objective recommendation to the Athens County Juvenile Court regarding the child’s best interests.
Usually, the Reindeer Run is held in late November or early December, and provides funds for the Friends of the Athens CASA/GAL program. Many of the participants get into the spirit with costumes, creating a large, friends and family feeling to the event. But with COVID-19 cases rising and restrictions still in place, there needed to be a different option this year.
“It’s a friend-raiser as much as it is a fundraiser,” Stotts commented.
She commended the program’s volunteers for helping make the virtual Santa visit become a reality this year.
Usually, the program is supported through a series of fundraisers planned throughout the year, such as the Superhero 5K, which was recently turned into a virtual event. The next annual fundraiser the program usually hosts was the Reindeer Run, but another virtual run didn’t seem the best route.
“Historically, we host the Reindeer Run — this year would have been our 8th Reindeer Run,” she explained. “Thinking forward to what the holiday season is going to look like, and how much children love waiting in that big line to see Santa at the mall, so we thought this would be a great way to build awareness and fundraiser for the Friends of CASA, but also offer the community an opportunity to let their kids safely visit with Santa.”
Each child with a ticket will be mailed a craft, which will be completed during the event — if multiple children will join through one link, multiple tickets is recommended to provide each participant with a craft. Discounts are offered for multiple children, and tickets start at $10.
Songs, games and other Christmas cheer will also take place as a professional Santa will join the call.
Hot cocoa, traditionally the official drink of the CASA/GAL Reindeer Run, will be the title-holder as well for the Reindeer Games event. Local coffee suppliers and shops — Court Street Coffee, Kindred Market, Donkey Coffee and Brenen’s Coffee — have all partnered with CASA. Any hot chocolate purchased from the shops will be named, at least for the time being, as Cocoa for Casa, promoting the Reindeer Games.