Putting smiles on children's faces
A pair of special guests from the North Pole paid a visit to Caldwell County Friday, and their appearance at the Lenoir Rotary Club’s Christmas program for children led to warm hearts and smiling faces.
Santa and Mrs. Claus carved a little time out of their busy holiday schedule to pass out some gifts to children and spread holiday cheer to those attending the Rotary Club’s annual Christmas party for children, an event that has been held since the 1950s.
“It’s just wonderful and so exciting,” Mrs Claus said. “I look forward to it year after year. I love getting to come down here and see these darling little children.”
Mrs. Claus usually does not get to travel with Santa when he treks the globe to deliver gifts to boys and girls on Christmas Eve, so she relishes the opportunity to leave the North Pole for a while to visit with the Lenoir Rotarians when they provide a meal, time of caroling and a chance to meet Santa for children from every elementary school in the county.
And the jolly old elf enjoys himself, too. Instead of the hustle and bustle of getting gifts delivered around the world – all in one night – he gets to relax and spend some time talking and mingling with the children when he visits the Rotarians. He applauded the efforts of those men and women who worked with school counselors to identify children in need for the holidays and then contacted him to make their day even brighter.
“Oh, the pay is good,” Santa chuckled. “And that pay is when these wonderful children come up and hug me before, during and after this program. It’s a true delight. I can’t imagine feeling any better. Santa usually has a few tears in his eyes before this is finished.”
The same could be said for Rotarians Jackie Heim and Steve Strange, who have been actively involved with the program for a number of years.
“These kids are so special,” Heim said.
The Lenoir Rotary Club hosts the Christmas program for children every year. The children in attendance from the schools were treated to a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, macaroni and ice cream before the Big Man made his entrance with Mrs. Claus by his side.
As the Clauses made their way into the Family Life Center at First United Methodist Church in Lenoir, eyes widened, gasps were heard, and smiles crossed the faces of the youngsters there for the party. Once the awe and wonderment of being in the same room settled in, those children took their seats in front of the famous North Pole residents and patiently waited to hear their names called to receive a present and treat bag.
Omaury and Jimmy, kindergarteners from Sawmills Elementary School, were pleased when they ripped away wrapping paper to find Chuck and Friends construction trucks and racing cars inside.
“I knew he would bring me this, I just knew it,” Jimmy exclaimed.
And how did Santa know to bring that gift?
“Because I’ve always wanted one,” Jimmy said. “He knows what we’re saying. He knows what we’re doing. He knew this is what I wanted.”
Omaury expected to see Santa and was equally pleased to get his gift.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “I wanted this.”
Rotarians enjoyed seeing the children receive the gifts and the chance to interact with them while they all were together, when the little ones were not engaging with Kris Kringle, that is.
“This is something our club members really get excited about every year,” Lenoir Rotary President Adam Sterken said. “We look forward to giving back to the community and these kids. It makes the holiday brighter for some who may be less fortunate.
“This means so much to us that it’s one of the first things we work into our budget each year.”
Pete Kidder, one of the program organizers, added, “Service above self. That’s what this is about. It gives us a chance to really connect with some of the need in the county. It’s a wonderful way to provide a little bit of Christmas for those who otherwise may not have one.”
Club member Don Weiller agreed.
“This is the best program of the year,” he said. “It’s utter chaos, but it’s worth it.”
That was the assessment of Mr. and Mrs. Claus as well.
“We love doing it, being here together with these children,” Mrs. Claus said.