From singing classic Christmas songs to the presents that awaited Brooklyn Paddock, every part of the surprise holiday event at Learning Avenues Child Care Center’s parking lot filled 4-year-old’s heart with joy.
Especially the surprise visit from a guitar-playing Santa Claus.
“I didn’t know he was coming,” the vibrant preschooler said. She added how the best part about seeing Santa is how he delivers presents.
“I got to see him twice!” Brooklyn said.
And what Santa and his helpers brought Thursday morning were gifts to put smiles on faces on dozens of children ages 2 1/2 to 12 at the private nonprofit child care center.
The Kids’ Christmas is a time-honored tradition for more than 30 years between the center and associates at Bonneville Power Administration’s Ross Complex to brighten Christmas for families in need. Learning Avenues serves a high number of children from low-income families; 74 percent of the 65 children it serves on site qualify for free or reduced school meals, director Dorene Brugman said. About two-third come from single-parent households, she added.
Brugman has worked at Learning Avenues since 1992. She watched the annual holiday partnership with BPA evolve and is grateful for how it turns around.
Especially during a pandemic-riddled 2020.
“For some of these kids, this is the best thing they’ll get this year,” Brugman said.
Associates purchase gifts based on a child’s need, with items including clothing, books and toys. The higher the need, the greater the number of gifts.
Plus, a special 2020 gift: facemasks. Cymany O’Brien, The Kids’ Christmas event coordinator from BPA, said the annual event is a popular one for the associates who go above and beyond to spoil young children.
“Basically,” O’Brien said, “(each associate) is Santa for that kid.”
Second-grade student Deemyan Salazar already was in the holiday spirit Thursday wearing red reindeer antlers — “I like to wear them,” he said — and hopes one of the presents given to him includes Legos.
In a nonpandemic year, O’Brien said, children from Learning Avenues are bused to BPA’s Ross Complex for a holiday event inside the complex’s warehouse, where they rush to greet Santa and tear through wrapping paper to open gifts.
This year, the socially distanced-style event means kids had to wait until they got home to open their gifts.
That’s just fine with Brugman and O’Brien, since they want the children to have as normal of a holiday season as possible.
“For me, it’s about what they do,” O’Brien said of Learning Avenues, “not about what we do.
“Being a part of it just makes you feel really good. And seeing their faces, that’s gratifying.”