Hancock County Children Creating New Holiday Memories

"Ooh! Yours will smell good", one teacher commented as she held up a gingerbread man.

The aroma and other sweet memories of Christmas have been washed away from many homes in Hancock County.

"The one thing that we couldn't replace, what parents missed the most, was the homemade ornaments. It was the pictures with Santa. So we knew we couldn't replace them, but we could start anew," said teacher Stacey Necaise.

So Hancock Middle School teachers decided to host "Cherishing Christmas After Katrina," a celebration for 600 children. The party came complete with everything from creating ornaments and decorating cookies, to singing Christmas carols.

The school had been planning the big party since Thanksgiving, but couldn't get a hold of Santa. Then last week, the school received a phone call from the small town of Franklin Grove, Illinois, from none other than Old Saint Nick himself.

"Oh my goodness! That was definitely a prayer that was answered. We were so shocked and he had 1,200 wrapped gifts and ready to see all our children," said Necaise.

"I feel like the kids need this to brighten their spirits for what they've lost down here. I've enjoyed every moment of this. I enjoy the kids. They have some very cheery faces. I love it," said Santa.

And judging from the children's faces, they loved it too. It was a day worth capturing and sharing with their parents at home, as each child starts a new memory after Katrina.

All the presents at the party were donated by "Operation New Hope," a group based near Rockford, Illinois, and the art supplies came from "Calvary Chapel Relief" out of Florida.