Holiday spirits were high with the contagious cheer and enlivening songs despite having a slightly lower attendance count as compared to last year’s event, the O’Fallon Police Department’s Annual Breakfast With Santa on Saturday, Dec. 17 at Amelia Carriel Junior High.
“This is a great thing to do on a chilly Saturday morning. There may not be as many as last time, but that’s not what’s important,” Terry Taggart, O’Fallon Police Citizens Academy volunteer, said.
The event garnered over 150 kids, parents, siblings and grandparents.
OPD Detective Kathy Effan quarterbacks the event annually and starts planning it in the fall. She has to reign in 25 or more volunteers, arrange with Sodexo, who donates the breakfast food, prep crafting materials and stations, and line up special guests Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch.
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Volunteers primarily come from a pool of many OPD officers and staff members, OPD Citizen Academy participants and graduates, as well as Junior High School Honor Society students and the O’Fallon Township High School Madrigal singers (students).
“We try to change it up a little bit each year. We have some crafts that the kids really like that we keep from year-to-year, and we try to do other crafts to have something new each year,” Effan said.
“The Madrigals come in and they’ll sing for us, and that’s always very nice, because they do such a beautiful job,” she added.
One little youngster, Isabella Donze, 5, said she was having the time of her life while she enjoyed making crafts and coloring.
“I want a Hatchimal and a big Barbie doll house for Christmas,” Donze said when asked what she wants Santa Claus to bring her.
Another satisfied attendee, Owen Hughs, 6, showed off a hat he was wearing with reindeer antlers that move up and down when you push a button on one of the hat strings.
“I want Pokemon cards,” Hughs said as he crafted a Fruit Loop cereal candy cane, and thought about the top item on his Christmas list.
One volunteer surmised attendance was a little lower this year due to the icy, treacherous weather the night before with freezing rain, but also something else too.
“The YMCA across the street and Central Elementary, both had their Breakfast With Santa or holiday events today, too,” said Sandra Sutter, an O’Fallon Police Citizen Academy graduate volunteer.
But that didn’t stop locals from stopping by for pancakes, hash browns, cinnamon apples, sausage and orange juice, crafts, music and visiting with Santa.
Organizers and volunteers accepted food donations to the O’Fallon Food Pantry, located at 801 E. State St.
“Due to the generous donations from those attending the event, a donation of 145 pounds of food was made to the O’Fallon Food Pantry (Monday),” Effan said.
Jim Krohn, of Krohn Photography, donated his time and service to attendees for the event.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have such a wonderful event without the help and support of people like Jim and those at Sodexo, and all our other volunteers,” Effan said with an ear-to-ear smile.
Krohn said all the photographs of the children on Santa’s lap, as well as a group volunteer photo, are available for viewing and downloading or sharing at www.breakfastwithsanta.blogspot.com.