More than 160 people representing 32 families will take part in Caring Strategies’ first-ever Sensory Santa event next month, and Caring Strategies director Sandra O’Brien said all spots at the event were filled within 24 hours.
O’Brien said: “Our goal is to help children with sensory challenges have a happy Santa experience by providing an environment where children feel safe and secure. There will be sensory-trained staff and sensory materials to entertain customers. .
Caring Strategies is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources for children with and without developmental disabilities, as well as other children with special needs. The organization serves hundreds of individuals and their families each year and is largely supported by United Way St. Charles.
O’Brien, who has taught for more than 40 years, started the group many years ago with her sister. The caring strategy applies to children aged 0-7 and their parents. Hosting events, training, camps and classes throughout the year, the organization also provides resources for parents concerned with milestone development.
“In the spring, we’ll have language classes, feeding classes, messy play days, and sensory Easter hunts with screenings,” she said. “We work with many agencies to work together to provide the most resources for the children of the parish.”
She added that Special Olympics provides a toolkit for gross motor development that Caring Strategies will use in most of their activities, and that the organization will screen children for physical development in spring 2023.
“I don’t feel like it’s a job,” O’Brien said of running the organization. “I feel like it’s a calling. Giving back to the community…it’s just a feeling that maybe I’m doing something right or doing something good. I feel like I can do it 24/7.”
O’Brien said she will open a waiting list for the Sensory Santa event.
“We got a lot of feedback and community support,” she said. “We continue to have people calling us to volunteer and support us. It’s heartwarming, but we haven’t gotten any commercial sponsors yet.”
For more information on Caring Strategies or to contact the organization to become a commercial sponsor of Sensory Santa events, visit www.caringstrategies.net.