More than 100 volunteers joined the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Committee for the group’s ninth annual Christmas Spirit Campaign last year. 

(Nov. 20, 2020) The Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Committee will carry on with this year’s Christmas Spirit Campaign by adapting it to meet novel coronavirus safety standards. 

“This [Christmas Spirit Campaign] is still important for us,” Young Professionals Chair Megan M. Rynkiewicz said. “It’s our big event that we work toward all year long and this year, of all years, the need [for it] is even greater.” 

The young professionals partner with businesses, schools, churches and nonprofit organizations to take underprivileged children in Worcester County to the Berlin Walmart for a tax-free, $100 shopping spree. 

Rynkiewicz said the committee works with local school counselors who identify eligible youth and connect them to the program. 

Since its inception in 2011, the campaign has grown exponentially — from 30 children the inaugural year to 97 in 2019. 

The event takes place annually on the first Saturday of December. 

Families drop off their children at 5 a.m. at the Outback Steakhouse in West Ocean City, and once all of the kids have gathered, they are transported to the Walmart, where they meet their chaperones. 

The kids spend an hour or two with their chaperones, picking out their gifts. In addition to the shopping, there are usually activities such as games, crafts and a visit with Santa. 

The day ends with a free breakfast at Outback Steakhouse. 

As has been the case for many events this year, the Christmas Spirit Campaign will look different in light of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.  

To mitigate the virus’ spread, the committee is eliminating all in-person activities. 

Volunteers will go shopping alone from Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 with the children’s shopping list in hand and drop gifts off at the chamber located in West Ocean City. 

On Dec. 5, families will drive to the chamber where volunteers, wearing facemasks, will find their gifts and drop it in the trunk of the vehicles.  

There is no age restriction for volunteers, as the committee encourages families to get involved with the shopping. Guardians of younger volunteers should sign up for the children. 

As of midweek, the committee had 91 volunteer positions filled, and is seeking nine more. The deadline to submit a volunteer application is the end of this week. 

The committee is also seeking donations such as wrapping paper, scotch tape, scissors, gift tags, sharpie markers, name tags and contractor tags, which are due by next Monday at 4:30 p.m. 

Furthermore, the committee hopes to find more sponsors of the event and offers four sponsorship levels: 

Toy Soldier — $100, funds one child

Rudolph — $250, funds two children and includes company logo featured on event banner

Elf — $500, funds five children and includes title sponsorship with larger logo on the banner and event material  

Santa — $1,000, funds 10 children and includes title sponsorship with larger logo on the banner, event material and additional marketing opportunities. 

For the young professionals, keeping the event alive was of the utmost importance. 

 “Canceling just wasn’t an option for us because we know how important this is for these kids, and if we didn’t have this event they may have not been able to get some of these items,” Rynkiewicz said. “… We were like, ‘We’re going to make this happen, we just have to adjust it,’ and with a lot of the work going virtual it inspired us to be a little creative with how we do it.” 

To volunteer visit https://www.signupgenius.com/go/409094ea4ad2ea2f94-2020 or contact Ashley Rodriguez or Sara Simon at Ashley.Rodriguez@marriott.com and Ssimon@Harrisongp.com, respectively. 

To become a sponsor visit https://occhamberfoundation.org/spirit-christmas-campaign/

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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