GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - For 65 children, the holidays became a little brighter Sunday thanks to the annual Looking for a Christmas Miracle project by the Junior Auxiliary of Gulfport.
It was a first time experience for some but will likely make a long time impression. It was certainly a blessing for Donna Martocci, of Long Beach, and her six children.
The junior auxiliary received names of children in difficult circumstances from school counselors across the Coast, and the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center provided the backdrop for what will likely be the only Christmas they will know this year.
"Santa Claus will be here today," Martocci said. "Christmas will be early. I explained to the children that Santa Claus was coming early. So, they're looking so forward to everything. It's just wonderful. Lynn Meadows is beautiful, and some of us have not been here, so it's exciting to even come in."
The children were treated to plenty of play time at the museum. In addition, there was face painting, arts and crafts and a visit with Santa Claus. Leah Plunk, 10, made the most of her visit.
"I like the thing. It's like a jungle gym, kind of, but there's lots of fancy stuff in there," said Leah.
The project, which has been going on for about eight years, was coordinated for the first time by junior auxiliary member Alina Goldin.
"When I was doing the project last year, I was just observing," Goldin said. "I actually remember walking out of the room crying and calling my husband. I wanted to say thank you for everything that we have personally, and I knew I wanted to be part of this project."
At the end of the visit, families were treated to a hot meal and gifts from their wish lists, thanks to the junior auxiliary and corporate sponsors. Mateo Magee, 12, had an honest assessment.
"It's fun. It made me seem like a kid, but I don't really want to seem like a kid," said Mateo.