Thursday was the last day before the start of winter break at Dearborn Public Schools, but students at Salina Elementary were already getting in the spirit of the season before the final bell rang.
For nearly as long as ACCESS has been in existence, the Dearborn nonprofit has made it their mission every December to bring Christmas to Salina Elementary. This year was no different, with nearly 800 students receiving a gift and a "ho ho ho" from Santa Claus in the school's gym.
"It's my favorite event of the year," said ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber. "It recharges me for the rest of the year."
Amal Berry-Brown, vice president and National Arab & Chaldean Affairs manager at Comerica Bank, agreed.
"The kids get so excited for it," she said. "It gives the kids an opportunity to feel a part of the season."
Comerica has partnered with ACCESS on the event since 1999. Local employees are among the volunteers who help run the event, and the bank helps fund the hundreds of toys purchased for local kids.
The Dearborn Kiwanis has also served as a fundraising and volunteering partner since 2006.
Berry-Brown said that the event is "a perfect fit for Comerica" as one of the many community giving initiatives they take part in each year.
And it's a big job.
Around 30 people spend several months picking out gifts for boys and girls of different ages–everything from basketballs to Barbies to puzzles. The Santa is a local volunteer, and is bilingual in Arabic. He and volunteers handed out gifts and healthy treats to a total of 793 students this year.
The remaining 200 or so gifts go to families involved in ACCESS' programs, explained Social Services Director Brigitte Anouti.
For many kids, it's the only gift they'll get this holiday season.
"This is the one day that teachers tell us, even if the kids are sick, they don't want to miss it," she said.
Anouti knows the feeling well–she participated in the event decades ago as a student at Salina.
"It's exciting because I've experienced it," she said. "I can only imagine how they feel."