Over 160 people representing 32 families will attend Caring Strategies’ first ever Sensory Santa event next month, and Caring Strategies Director Sandra O’Brien said all the spots for the event were filled in 24 hours.
“Our goal is to help children with sensory challenges have a joyful Santa experience by providing an environment that helps the child feel safe and secure,” O’Brien said, adding that the event will have no loud noises or long waits in line and that there will be sensory-trained staff and sensory materials available to entertain patrons.
Caring Strategies is a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources to children with and without developmental disabilities, and other special needs. The organization serves hundreds of individuals and their families annually and is largely supported by United Way St. Charles.
O’Brien, who taught for over 40 years, started the organization years ago with her sister. Caring Strategies works with children aged 0-7 and their parents. Events, trainings, camps, and classes are held throughout the year, and the organization also serves as a resource to parents who have concerns about milestone development.
“In the spring we will have language classes, feeding class, messy play day, and a sensory Easter hunt with screenings,” she said. “We partner with lots of agencies in a combined effort to get the most resources out to our children in the parish.”
She added that Special Olympics has offered a kit for gross motor development that Caring Strategies will use at most of their events and that the organization will host a physical developmental screening for children in the spring of 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’ve done something right or done something good. I feel like I could do it 24/7.”
O’Brien said she will open a waiting list for the Sensory Santa event.
“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback and community support,” she said. “We continue to get people calling us to volunteer and support us. It’s so heartwarming, but we haven’t gotten any business sponsors yet.”
For more information on Caring Strategies or to contact the organization about being a business sponsor for the Sensory Santa event, visit www.caringstrategies.net.