The only thing that could make seeing a bunch of people dressed in Santa suits and running around town any more enjoyable is the knowledge that all of that “holly jolliness” is raising funds to give the community’s youngest and most deserving citizens a better life. On December 14th, St. Augustine Youth Services will hold their eighth annual ‘Santa Suits On The Loose 5K’, with all proceeds going directly back to SAYS programs and the kids they so generously benefit.
Chelsea Reppin, SAYS Director of Development, plays a key role in the planning and execution of the Santa Suits 5K. After working as a mentor for three years during her days as a Flagler College student, Chelsea has now worked full time for SAYS for the past two years. Among many other critical duties, Chelsea works alongside SAYS CEO Schuyler Siefker to plan fundraisers that help to give the organization’s young residents the supplies and education they need to build successful lives. “This is our largest annual fundraiser,” says Chelsea. “Our 2018 event brought in seven hundred runners and more than $30,000.”
Now in its thirtieth year, SAYS provides mental health programs designed to help foster kids and youth-in-crisis overcome trauma so that they can heal to become successful adults. SAYS has multiple residential group homes on their property that include specialized services to boys aged six to seventeen – therapy, social skills training, and independent living skills training.
SAYS’ services go far beyond the confines of their campus. Programs such as ‘Targeted Case Management’ and the ‘Community Action Team’ bring their highly-skilled staff out into the community. The Mobile Crisis Response Team was launched in 2015 to help reduce the rate of Baker Acts in St. Johns County. “Just this year,” says Chelsea, “we began operating the MCRT around the clock and extended the program’s services to residents up to age 25.”
It is easy to see why fundraising is so critical at SAYS. Besides, who would pass up the opportunity to dress up as Santa and run around the Ancient City? “Race day is one of my favorite days of the year,” says Chelsea, “because we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
Learn more about St. Augustine Youth Services by visiting www.sayskids.org. Photography by David Steele.