A magical 'Christmas in the Alley' celebration
To the joy of many children, Santa visited Daniel Island on Saturday, Dec. 15 at “Christmas in the Alley,” a neighborhood celebration held annually in Center Park behind Gibbon and Farr Streets. A few puddles remained after heavy rains in the days leading up to the event, but skies were clear for the highly anticipated evening festivities.
Starting at around 5 p.m., families rode into the alley on decorated bikes, scooters, wagons and golf carts, and were dressed up in holiday attire, with Santa hats, necklaces that lit up, and reindeer antlers. Each family brought a holiday ornament to hang on a tree and one unwrapped toy to be donated to the Toys for Tots.
Before Santa arrived, families greeted each other, enjoyed pizza provided by Orlando’s, and placed their Toys for Tots gift in the bins next to the Christmas trees. Soon the call came, and “Elf” Terry Haas, who has been helping to organize the event since it began, announced to all that Santa was on his way, so the children gathered around to greet him at the entry to the alley.
Just as it started to get dark, Santa rode in on a golf cart, and started the parade, slowly leading the children down the magical alley and passing out candy. After the parade ended and Santa took his seat, the children lined up for a chance to sit on his lap and tell him their Christmas wishes. Parents took pictures of their children with Santa, who patiently listened to each child.
Cookies, juice boxes and marshmallows for s’mores were all supplied courtesy of the many families along the alley. A fire pit kept the big kids busy and warm.
Started by the Haas and Delpino families in 2010, the event draws support not only from neighbors in the area but from the whole island as well. The adult neighbors in the alleyway decorate the night before — rain, shine or freezing temperatures. Despite the wet weather in the days leading up the event, many elves decorated the alley with holiday lights on bushes, trees and fences. They also hung murals and wreaths, and set up candy canes. Inflatables were part of the display as well, including a Christmas train, the Grinch on his sleigh, a Minnie Mouse Bow-tique, and a holiday camper.
“I think that even with the crazy weather the Who’s down in Whoville showed up!” said Terry. “It was so touch and go on Friday that we decorated in the rain, which was crazy! But I think that this event has come together over the years and it’s just become a tradition that just fills my heart…The magic still shows up in the alley. It’s just so sparkly and twinkly!”
When Haas and friends learned that a young girl on Daniel Island who attends the party year after year wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t make it, they took the festivities to her – with Santa in tow!
“She and Santa had their own time,” said Haas, who admitted the moment was a bit emotional. “…It was so awesome.”
But perhaps the best gift of all was the opportunity for attendees to help a group of deserving local children, who will receive the more than 100 presents donated to Toys for Tots by attendees. Local campaigns are the heart and soul for Toy for Tots, which believes that “Every Child Deserves a Little Christmas” and has supported 251 million children since starting the program in 1947. Over 97 percent of donations to the non-profit go directly to providing gifts to less fortunate children. The program is managed by dedicated U.S. Marines and local volunteers.