GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - The pandemic changed a nearly six-decade-old toy delivery program this year, but it didn’t stop the event.
Santa and Mrs. Claus created the smiles, but it took a good partnership with the Biloxi Elks Club to make it happen this year - for the 59th time.
Although they didn’t get to visit the Elks Lodge will all the pageantry, the children at the Harrison County Child Development Center still got some loving attention
“We were really disappointed that the kids couldn’t come,” said David Poulos, long-time Elks member. “But we understood that with the COVID, it was really just impossible for them to bring them out of the school.”
So, necessity was once again the mother of invention.
“If they can’t come see Santa, then we’re going to bring Santa to see them,” Poulos said.
The staff appreciated the gesture.
“The children get so excited, and when we see that excitement, we get excited,” said Sharon Malley, who has worked at the development center for 32 years. “In the past, they knew they were going on a trip. This year, they just know they’re going to go outside and get to see Santa, but they are excited.”
The school made an extra effort to get them ready with a fantasy Christmas world.
“We make a big deal of it here,” said fifth-year teacher Caitlyn Hardy. “Especially this year there’s been so much darkness in 2020, so it’s nice to have light and happiness.”
Elks members spent a lot of time helping Santa collect the presents for all the children.
“I can’t say enough about them,” said principal Rebecca Parker. “They are just a wonderful group of people. They are so supportive. They always call us early on. There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. They get as excited as we do.”
“This is the greatest feeling in the world to be here with these kids and to celebrate Christmas,” Poulos added.