Flagler County, FL (December 24, 2021) In the dark starry night, the glow of the sleigh could be seen shining brightly as Santa welcomed young children, some dressed in their holiday finest for a picture with the jolly old elf.

It’s been a tradition for 35 years and even with the passing of co-founder Terri Price’s mother on December 11th, she and her family couldn’t let the community down. Coming out of retirement, Don Price donned his Santa suit and mounted the sleigh to ensure the community’s children had a chance to commemorate the holidays.

“He’s in a wheel chair. He’s not paralyzed but he’s in a wheel chair and they would not let him stop playing Santa,” said Terri Price. “They pick him up and put him on the sleigh.”

It’s grown over the years into a tradition families look forward to seeing.

“We’ve got three generations now coming,” she said.  “We started this, I think it was ’84 or ’85 basically with a hayride. There weren’t very many people out here. We’d go through, pick up friends, they’d ride for a while and we’d drop them off. It started off like that, then we started collecting stuffed animals because everybody would come out to see what we were doing, singing, laughing and having a good time. The next thing I know it’s stuffed animals, candy and dollar store presents.  Then we’re wrapping them, I think our highest time, we used to have it at Hollar & Greene (Produce), we probably had 2-3,000 people. It looked like a Disney World parking lot.”

Son Dusty Price posed for photos with families, appearing in full dress as Jesus, and gently reminding people about the reason for the season. He’s watched his parents collaborate with the community to serve the area’s children for most of his life, and the importance of the evening is one he treasures.

“So many years. I’m very proud of my parents. They’ve done a wonderful job. It’s a huge undertaking but a lot of the community pitches in. We all come together to make it happen and it’s worth it when you see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

A New Head Elf Steps Up

Helping to take charge of the event this year, April Pearson was decked out from head to toe in holiday gear as were many of the volunteers in the Hidden Trails Community Center. She takes pleasure in giving back to the community and seeing the smiles on the faces of the children as they pick from 1,500 gifts donated by the community.

Volunteers help families enjoy time with Santa and receive gifts from the community during the 35th Annual Santa Run at the Hidden Trails Community Center on December 23, 2021. From left, Trina Berry, April Pearson, Margaret Chewning, Wes Slentz, Diana Gum, Jordyn Grine. Photo: Flagler News Weekly

“We do this every year, with the community pitching together to donate money, toys and their time, to wrap and set everything up. Santa comes in, they get to meet Santa, pick out some presents and some used items then go out and get cookies and candy, and go back home and celebrate Christmas,” said Pearson happily.

“I actually love it. It’s my 9th year doing this and my first year actually stepping up to run it,” she said. “We love seeing the kids smile.”

Volunteers help families enjoy time with Santa and receive gifts from the community during the 35th Annual Santa Run at the Hidden Trails Community Center on December 23, 2021. From left, Barb Haradzin, Wes Slentz, Cyndie Gleason, Diana Gum, and Jordyn Grine. Photo: Flagler News Weekly

The youngest of the holiday helpers, Jordyn Grine worked alongside her grandmother Diana Gum to share the Christmas spirit, creating memories for the family members.

The 10-year-old Grine had been given the important task of passing out gifts for little children.

“We love doing charity work,” said Gum, looking proudly at Grine. “She’s got a big soul and big heart and we have to have that.”

The annual Santa Run event is supported by Westside Baptist Church’s Pastor Mike Raftery who led Thursday evening’s prayer, and Grace Tabernacle Ministries’ Pastor Charles Silano.

Pastor Mike Raftery, Pastor Charles Silano, Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins and Santa (Don Price) commemorate the evening. Photo: Westside Baptist Church.

Terri Price says Silano has been a blessing to the event and the community for his work with those in need over the years.

“We’ve gone to his church for over 10 years I’d say,” said Price, who also helps with Silano’s food bank, the Grace Food Pantry, when she can.

“He does so many good works. He’s an awesome teacher of The Word, and his wife and everybody in the congregation is family. I just really love that church,” she said.

Terri Price (left) Don Price (Santa) and son Dusty Price (right) are among the families who help ensure children have a blessed holiday during the annual Santa Run. Photo: Flagler News Weekly.

Through it all, the Price family keeps God front and center during the holiday event.

“We believe God should get the glory,” said Price. “To God be the glory because this is what brings in the donations – presents, money to buy the presents, wrapping paper, all that. It’s incredible, and this community really comes together. It’s gaps we try to help fill, but really it’s Jesus, that’s the main reason.”

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