Toy giveaway warms hearts

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 25, 2009

NATCHEZ — In the front row of Braden School’s auditorium, Candace Martin and son Brent, 5, were on Santa watch at Thursday’s Children’s Christmas Tree Fund’s toy giveaway.

But this year’s giveaway was different for Brent than in years past.

“About three weeks ago, we found out he was blind in one eye,” Martin said.

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While Brent’s doctors told him to wear a patch over his good eye to strengthen his weakening one, that wouldn’t do for Brent because Santa Claus was coming to town.

Martin said her son begged her to let him go without his eye patch so he could watch for Santa.

“All he has been asking is, ‘When’s Santa coming? When’s Santa coming?’” Martin said. “This is something we do every year. It’s a time to see Santa and get toys from him,” Martin said.

“We’re trying to give him the best Christmas possible,” Martin said.

Hundreds of children and parents joined the Martins in the day’s excitement.

Event chairwoman Caroline McDonough said she thought this year’s turnout was larger than in years past.

“We are expecting about 370 children,” McDonough said.

“I thought the weather would keep them from coming, but they’re here. The weather doesn’t stop Santa.”

Santa Claus Committee member Butch Brown said this year’s crowd was the largest he’s ever seen since 1961.

“The distribution is the most fun. It’s where the real spirit of Christmas is,” Brown said.

JaNerah Barton, 3, sat with two of her sisters JaMiel, 9, and JaKara Hawkins, 5, as they waited for Santa to appear on stage.

JaNerah said she hoped Santa brought her a baby doll and Dora the Explorer toys.

JaMiel said she was excited to see Santa, but there are other things she likes about Christmas.

“ I like opening presents and helping cook a Christmas feast,” she said.

Jamarrio Barton said the toy giveaway is an opportunity for his daughters to learn the true spirit of the season.

“It really lets the kids see what Christmas is all about — giving,” Barton said.