Santa Claus spreads cheer, toys at annual giveaway

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — Santa Claus commanded the crowd of children at Braden School Auditorium Friday as if they were his reindeer.

“Can I get a ‘Ho, ho ho’?” he shouted.

An entire auditorium full of children, filled with excitement to see Santa and receive a bag of toys, gladly repeated “Ho, ho ho!”

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“And a ‘Me-erry Christmas’?” Santa said, cupping his ear for a response.

“Me-erry Christmas,” the children said in unison.

At least 350 needy children received a bag full of presents Friday.

The toy giveaway was the finale of the annual Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund, a nonprofit that makes sure every needy family who signs up has something for the children ages 1-10 to unwrap on Christmas.

Each child received a big brown bag of gifts suited to their age and gender.

And those who were not too stunned or shy also got a high five or big hug from Santa.

As the younger children filed on stage with their parents to get their bag and talk to Santa, the smiles on the parents faces looked as big as the children.

And lining the entire back wall of the large auditorium were members of the Natchez Santa Claus Committee, who helped make it possible.

The committee also helped the giveaway by providing the jolly celebrity with a lift via police-escort parade.

Kierra Morgan, 10, could barely sit still in her chair or stop smiling while she was waiting on Santa to arrive.

“I’m excited,” she said.

Her cousin, Breanna Shannon, 9, said she loves the event, but feels a little shy when it’s her turn to climb on stage.

“I get nervous,” she said.

Morgan said she has no problem with being centerstage on Santa’s lap.

“I like being with all the people and getting attention,” she said.

When Santa finally arrived, a few minutes behind schedule, it was well worth the wait to the parents and children because the auditorium broke out in applause.

Nikki Levy brought her son and nephew to receive toys from Santa and the charitable organizers of the event.

Her nephew, Anthony Daniels, was not a bit shy about getting what he wanted, which was a big hug from Santa.

Daniels, 4, held up the steady line of children clutching their bags and wrapped his arm around the animated Mr. Claus tightly.

He walked down the steps of the stage with a grin ear-to-ear.

Levy said her mother told her about the program, and said she enjoys being able to give her son and nephew for Christmas that they receive at Braden.

“It’s really nice,” she said.

Donations of any amount can be sent at year-round to the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund, P.O. Box 1082, Natchez, MS, 39121.