“Have you ever noticed how things can begin simple but then turn into a crisis?” Vanderpool asked the members. “When I began the Santa Project I spent the last 35 days of the year at the Bradley Square Mall. The rest of the year was spent talking to kids about safety in schools K through third.”
The Santa Claus idea can be found in the project’s mission, “We believe children should be educated in a way that makes sense to them, rather than in traditional adult methods. Santa Claus is an excellent media for training. Children naturally trust him, and listen and obey his simple requests.”
According to Vanderpool, the program was simple until class time was needed for other pursuits. The crisis was finding a new program to pursue.
“I figured the Santa Project had run its course and would slowly die a natural death,” Vanderpool said. “It turns out God has a sense of humor.”
The Santa Project has continued to experience renewed growth over the past 15 years. A part of this growth includes several new programs: Good Friends/Bad Friends, The Story Gatherer, TimeSlips, Equipped to Bless, and Stuffed Animals for Emergencies. These programs were made to address the need of dementia patients, children with autism, human trafficking, and children in emergencies among others.
Vanderpool is involved with the Association of Missing and Exploited Children’s Organizations. Through this association he has realized children learn best through seeing what they need to learn in addition to hearing. According to the projects website, the use of short vignettes, puppets, and other props are used by Vanderpool to demonstrate the concepts of safety and awareness in terms the young children can understand.
The following is a brief description of the programs offered by Vanderpool’s The Santa Project:
- Good Friends/Bad Friends: The original safety program for children which as expanded to include information for parents, foster parents, and other adult caregivers. The program explains to children, through the trusted Santa, who can and cannot be trusted.
- The Story Gatherer: A program offering educational opportunities to children and adults into he creation and preservation of stories from one’s mind or one’s memory.
- TimeSlips: Creative Storytelling applied to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, resulting in improved quality of life for patients, families and care givers. Said Vanderpool, “The body is still breathing and the mind still works. It is amazing how these patients respond to the silly stories. After a while they begin laughing and there is a sense of comradery.”
- Equipped to Bless: A program of talks and workshops emphasizing our unique individualities and our connectedness.
- S.A.F.E: Providing new and gently used stuffed animals free for distribution to agencies dealing with children in crisis situations.
For further information, visit www.thestantaproject.org or call 423-614-3379.
Leigh Ann Boyd, the president of the Kiwanis Club, announced school supplies would be collected over the next three weeks. These supplies will be brought to the Kiwanis convention where competition between the Tennessee and Kentucky districts will occur.
The next Kiwanis meeting will take place at the Mountain View Inn.