Deacons Help the Community Through Santa's Helpers
Football player Will Smith dressed up as Santa to deliver gifts through the Santa's Helper program

Dec. 11, 2012

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By Steve Shutt, Wake Forest Athletic Communications (@SIDeacons)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest University athletic department staff and student-athletes participated in the annual Santa's Helper community outreach program on Friday, Dec. 7 and Saturday, Dec. 8 in Winston-Salem.

The program, now in its 27th year, provides toys for underprivileged children in the Winston-Salem area. The non-profit organization solicits donations throughout the year and provides toys to families whose names are provided by the Salvation Army.

The toys were wrapped and bagged on Friday afternoon and delivered on Saturday by over 150 Wake Forest student-athletes dressed as Santa and his elves. The deliveries took all day on Saturday as approximately 150 families were served. Each toy was individually wrapped and each child's name was placed on the package.

The city is broken into 11 different zones for delivery purposes and each zone had a driver, a Santa, and six to eight elves helping to deliver the presents.

Santa's Helper was the inspiration of Chip Rives, a Wake Forest football player in the mid 1980s. Chip's dream was to create a non-profit organization that would have "Santa Claus" deliver new Christmas presents to many of Winston-Salem's underprivileged children with the help of Wake Forest student-athletes.

The first year, 1986, the group was able to raise about $1,500 and provided gifts for approximately 35 families and more than 100 children. As the program grew, so did donations and the number of families that can be assisted.

Rives was honored by Sports Illustrated in 1987 as one of eight "Athletes Who Care" as they shared the magazine's Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year honor.

Santa's Helper is managed by a 12-member Board of Directors and has never had any paid staff. The annual volunteer force of over 100 includes Wake Forest student-athletes and staff members as well as students from local elementary, junior high and senior high schools. The program owns 11 complete Santa suits and delivers presents in volunteer vehicles as well as vans loaned by local dealerships.

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