Substitutes for Santa brightens holidays for many Grand Strand children

Published: Dec. 6, 2016 at 7:10 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2016 at 6:10 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Christmas came early for a group of Grand Strand area children.

On Tuesday night, the Ninth Annual Substitutes for Santa community service event brightened the holidays for 150 underprivileged Horry County children.

Sponsored by the MBACC's gsSCENE for Young Professionals, the event pairs one child with a volunteer. It began with dinner and arcade games at the Ultimate California Pizza Game Zone.

"It makes you feel warm," said Michael Tomko, of Ultimate Calfornia Pizza. "It makes you feel good because there are going to be 150 kids that are going to leave here very happy and that's what it's all about."

Then, it continued with a shopping spree at an area Walmart, where every child had a $100 gift card to spend.

"I was so excited all day to do it, so this has just been great," said Kristen Toben, a Subs for Santa volunteer.

Several Bucksport community children that attend South Conway Elementary School and were impacted by Hurricane Matthew participated.

"This will be an awesome evening for them," said Kema Faulk, membership programs manager for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and gsSCENE liaison. "The principal and guidance counselors at South Conway Elementary were very excited to learn that their school were chosen to participate in the Subs for Santa program this year."

Austin and Willow Jones experienced the devastation of the hurricane.

"Our real house was on the Waccamaw River and that got flooded then my mom, she has a house in Socastee in a trailer park and a tree fell on that and it was bad, but it's already fixed and stuff," Austin said. "That trailer, there's mold in it, so it's getting torn down right now."

Austin was excited as he shopped for a Nerf gun, a remote-control airplane, clothes, school supplies as well as other toys Tuesday.

"It means a lot really," he said.

Willow picked out various toys, a cotton candy maker, a dress and shoes for Christmas and other clothes.

"It's wonderful that we can help provide to maybe help give back some of those things they lost through the tough times and hopefully they'll have a very special Christmas," Toben said.

Divine Dining raised $13 thousand for Subs for Santa by selling $1 menu items.

Fundraisers and donations collected by gsSCENE and SOS Health Care also contributed to the event.

Children went home with necessities, such as toiletries, that had been donated as well.

50 children from South Conway Elementary, 50 children from Daisy Elementary and 50 children from Loris Elementary participated.

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