By Barbara Merriman
Saturday, December 8 was a special day at Dana Point Yacht Club because we hosted a group of Marine families from Camp Pendleton at our annual “Lunch with Santa.” As our guests arrived, the excitement and anticipation in the air could almost be palpable. Looking at the faces of the 75 children in attendance gave us all the feeling that the hard work getting to this point was worth it.
In early November, invitations were personally distributed to a section of enlisted housing at Pendleton, inviting each family to make a reservation for this luncheon and to include a gift suggestion for their child or children, along with any comment that the parent would like Santa to tell their kids. The reservations came in quickly and our “elves” started shopping. Looking for a specific toy can sometimes be a challenge—especially for those of us who haven’t seen the inside of a toy store since our children were small. Undaunted, the elderly elves (by comparison) were able to find all the requested gifts, with the help of a kindly salesperson who knew what a Monster High Doll and a Lego Star Wars project were.
The generosity of the Dana Point Yacht Club members, a few non-members and guests, made it financially possible to pull this off. The fundraising kicked off with a large gift from San Clemente Villas by the Sea. Members made donations ranging from $5 to $500. Each donation helped and special recognition for all the donors is currently displayed on a large poster in the lobby of the yacht club.
Each of the 75 children was given a gift valued in the $40 range and we had enough to give each of the 30 families a Visa Gift Card with a limit of $50. The families also each took home a little miniature rosemary Christmas tree, donated in part by Lowe’s Garden Center in San Clemente. Dana Point Yacht Club underwrote the lunch and the kid-friendly food was a big hit with the parents too.
The room was chock-full of young families and their beautifully well behaved children. Excited? Yes. Noisy? Yes. Polite? Yes.
Some ripped into their gifts and you could hear the squeals of delight, along with sincere thank-yous to Santa. Others carefully took the wrapped gifts home with them, anticipating Christmas morning and wondering what our Santa had given them. One parent was overheard saying that these might be the only gifts that they had under the tree this year. Being able to provide a few hours of pure joy and delight for these deserving families was such a pleasure for us. We are already talking about plans for next year.