Although 2020 has been different, kids around the world know that if they are goodhearted, they will have the opportunity to see Santa Claus.
The method of how that’s done has been altered during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the smiling faces of kids reacting to seeing St. Nick hasn’t changed a bit.
The Greater Vallejo Recreation District hosted a Jingle Jam Toy Giveaway at Children’s Wonderland on Friday night, and followed it up by having Santa visit three houses in Vallejo on Saturday morning to three kids that wrote Santa.
Avery Monroe-Speed seemed excited to see Santa from her mother’s vehicle at the drive through event.
“I love it!,” said Avery, while holding her wrapped Christmas present given to her at the event. “I can’t wait to put it under my Christmas tree!”
Avery’s mom, Jaunesse, said the event was “better than expected” on Friday night.
“I went to the GVRD website and looked under events and saw they were still doing something,” Jaunesse said. “It’s so hard to do anything for kids this year. You can find some stuff but it’s rare. We went to Santa Cruz and you could get a picture with Santa, but from around 20 feet away. This event here was a good reason to come out and they made it very festive and innovative.”
Seven-year-old Priya Smith, along with her twin sister Amiri Smith, were happy to get presents, see Santa and get some sweets.
“I love seeing Santa and how he got us some candy,” Priya said. Amiri added, “This is awesome and I like that I got toys.”
Antony Ryans, the recreation supervisor of GVRD, said that they had about 100 cars drive through the area in front of Children’s Wonderland in the first hour of the two-hour event.
“It’s great that we were able to do this. We had $4,000 in donations coming from monetary donations and sponsor ships from community stakeholders,” Ryans said. “There was a little apprehension that we might not be able to do this with the new shelter-in-place-order, but we’re safe and secure enough to still do this. We wanted to give the kids a sense of normalcy and give them the opportunity to see Santa Claus. Everyone on the staff worked hard to make this happen and we’re all jovial today.
“All the kids seem super excited and are taking pictures and we’re taking pictures of them with Santa,” Ryans continued. “Everyone seems to be enjoying the music and being able to connect with each other.”
Ryans said that every vehicle coming through had already registered and during that registration the kids would be organized and asked about their age. That way the gift they received would fit that kid better. Ryans said that around 250 gifts would be given out and that the GVRD began wrapping them as early in the week as Monday.
GVRD Assistant Recreation Coordinator Jessica Porter was especially in the spirit, dancing the night away with other workers and Santa while dressed up as an elf.
“This brings me so much joy,” Porter said. “Just to be able to do any kind of stuff for the kids is such a blessing. There has been so much support from many different departments and groups in the city. This takes me back to my own childhood. I grew up in Southern California, but we had a Candy Cane Lane we would visit and this seems to have that same wonderful holiday spirit.”
Thomas Bilbo, was was dressed up as Santa (don’t tell the kids) was also thrilled to bring some joy to the community.
“This is my first live event as Santa as I usually dress up and do virtual meetups,” Bilbo said. “I was introduced to this group by Karen Sims and this brings me a lot of pleasure bringing the joy and smile to these kids faces. Normally I’ve done a lot of live events with the tree lighting and other events by now, but this year it’s been mostly online. I still get tons of people yelling, ‘Santa’ when I come on screen. I have to ask them to talk one at a time when they get all excited.”