Las Vegas In Early December - Check Out The Great Santa Run!

The Great Las Vegas Santa Run for Opportunity Village.
The Great Las Vegas Santa Run for Opportunity Village. | Source
The "Start" line of the Las Vegas Great Santa Run
The "Start" line of the Las Vegas Great Santa Run | Source
So many cute variations of "Santa's"
So many cute variations of "Santa's" | Source
running down streets lined with palm trees.
running down streets lined with palm trees. | Source

A fun event for a great cause!

If you happen to be visiting Las Vegas in early December, check out a very worthwhile and fun event that raises money for a great cause! It's called The Las Vegas Great Santa Run, and is held every December. The year 2011 marked the Seventh annual Santa Run. This fun and interesting run is usually held at Town Square in Las Vegas. It is a 5k race if you choose to run it. Or, you can participate in a one mile "Kris Kringle Jingle" walk, if running just isn't your thing.

The purpose of this race is, of course, to raise money for Opportunity Village. They provide training and employment to nearly 1,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities. People who at one time would have been cast aside and told that they do not have much to offer are now trained to do jobs that their capabilities will allow them to do, and they are able to earn a paycheck in the process. This can lead to feelings of accomplishment and pride in being able to earn some of their own money and can lead to achievements that they might not otherwise have thought possible!

Another purpose of the race is to attempt to break the current Guinness Book Of World Records for the "Largest gathering of Santas." The current record is 12,965, and was made in 2007 by a group of Santas in Derry City, Northern Ireland.

When you register for this event, runners or walkers receive a five piece "Santa Suit" that you can wear in the race. All that, and a fun day for just $35 per person! (It's $25 for children 12 and under.) In 2011 there were a couple new things added to make it even more interesting. At the start of the race, you see five parachuting "Santa's" brought in, followed by a trail of green smoke. In addition, in 2011 there were 500 participants from the Army National Guard in Afghanistan who wished to participate in the spirit of helping these children and young people from nearly a half of a world away.


The Race Always Draws A Huge Crowd ~

In past years, this event has brought together 7,000 Santas. In 2011, they expected at least 10,000, if not more! My husband and I hope to make this race an annual event (walking, not running, I don't think Grandma's knees would hold out running)... and I always know that it's going to be a FUN day helping to raise money for a very worthwhile cause!

Opportunity Village actually started in 1954, but was called by a different name, "The Clark County Association of Retarded Citizens." The name was changed in the mid 1960's to the current name "Opportunity Village." Sometimes progress is a very good thing.

Parents of these children had been told in the 1950's that their children were basically throw away children - that they were ineducable and unemployable. But these parents truly believed in the potential of their children and refused to take this as an answer. They sought help in any way they could find it because of their strong belief that their children could learn and succeed.

Also in the mid 1960's, these children were placed in special education classes that continue to this day, which were definitely an advancement made by this country. This is when Opportunity Village became more of an employment training center and they also run a successful thrift store operation featuring gently used items for sale.

It is estimated that Opportunity Village saves taxpayers over $22 million a year. This is a tremendous savings. Without this worthwhile program people would have to rely on government programs. Opportunity Village currently has three employment training campuses, AND, they own the buildings outright because of donations... this is an amazing feat! It goes to show the big hearts of the people of Las Vegas towards a very worthwhile organization.

The people they employ currently earn salaries of 3.6 million... and these salaries are paid to people who were once thought to be "unemployable." Opportunity Village currently has about 935 "client employees", and about 200 Clark County school children who are also helped by their programs. And there is also something that I didn't even realize - about one third of these people become disabled after an accident or illness.

Nearly every person served by this program has multiple disabilities. Most have IQ's of 70 or below, and their disabilities range from Down's Syndrome to Autism, to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as well as other rare syndromes. And some become disabled at a later time in their lives due to accidents, injuries and illnesses.

Opportunity Village currently owns a document destruction business and they are also contracted to provide employees for many local businesses. Their employees now clean over one million square feet of office space, and work on parking lot and landscaping projects.

In fact, Opportunity Village was the original manufacturer of the Elvis Presley scarf! It is said that Elvis was a loyal customer and that Colonel Parker would also regularly go to Opportunity Village. They have also made "Live At The Hilton" buttons for Presley, as well as "hound dog" ribbons for Elvis' "Hound Dogs." What an accomplishment, and what an interesting contribution they made to the renowned history both of Elvis and the city of Las Vegas.

From the photo's and video's I have seen of the race, it is always a very special event. Why, some people even dress their dogs as "Santa's" and bring them along for the run. A truly special, worthwhile event to check out if you are going to be in the Las Vegas area the first weekend of December. It is said that people do travel from all over to participate, so why not come on out in December? You will leave with fond memories that will last for a lifetime!

An Update ~

In December of 2012, the Great Santa Run attracted almost 10,000 participants and the race won the World Santa Challenge.

In 2013, the Grand Marshal of the Great Santa Run is a new resident headliner from Caesar's Palace, country music star Shania Twain. A good time will be had by all!

The Las Vegas Great Santa Run, 2010

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