Tree Fund distributes toys to 300-plus children

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 30, 2005

NATCHEZ &8212; The Children&8217;s Christmas Tree Fund enlisted the services of none other than Santa Claus himself to help it distribute presents to more than 300 local children Saturday morning.

The children filled the auditorium at Braden School, singing Christmas carols while they waited for the big guy to make his entrance.

And, after parading around Natchez with members of the Christmas Committee, Santa didn&8217;t disappoint.

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The jolly old man, looking svelte, greeted the children, took his seat on the stage and then got down to work.

With a lot of help from his elves, Santa sent each of the children home with a bag age- and gender-appropriate playthings.

As the children received their gifts, they filed past Santa to say hello and thank you.

&8220;It&8217;s been a fantastic day with lots of good hugs and full of unexplainable joy,&8221; he said.

Twins Tia and Toya Green, 7, seconded Santa. &8220;I slept all over my bed, I was like &8216;I&8217;m so glad because I&8217;m getting a present tomorrow,&8221; Toya said.

And while Santa got the hugs of gratitude, there were a lot of elves behind the scenes that helped make the whole thing possible.

Katherine Killelea oversees the collection of toys and donations for the fund. She said the generosity of the community is the reason the program has been able to be so successful in its 50-plus years.

Helping Killelea sort through the bags of toys on stage were the student council from Trinity Episcopal School, which also donated $500 to this year&8217;s effort.

Noble Young, president of the council, said getting a close-up view of the kids when they see their gifts makes it worthwhile.

&8220;It&8217;s great to see their faces just light up,&8221; she said.

Killelea said the Trinity kids were essential to the months-long effort to prepare for the event.

&8220;I don&8217;t ever have to ask them, they call me up,&8221; she said.

Santa and his Christmas Committee, when their toys were handed out, threw out more handfuls of candy before hopping back into their, er, sleds, and continued to parade through Natchez, making a stop at the Natchez Children&8217;s Home before calling it a Christmas.

Ha ha ha.

The man in red was just getting ready for his big ride that night, and the Green twins were hoping he&8217;d be coming down their chimney.

To help lure him, Tia had some advice for children of all ages. &8220;Go to bed early because you might get something from Santa, too,&8221; she said.