A Yuletide dream was delivered grandly to 116 Hernando County foster children this holiday season as they were magically transported to a land of joy and wonder. Ah, but this was no dream. It was the Polar Express, a winter wonderland that the Kiwanis Club of Weeki Wachee presented on December 2nd at the Pasco County Safety Town.
“The Kiwanis Club of Weeki Wachee has been in our community for 11 years. The Kiwanis Club of Weeki Wachee prepared information for The Hernando Sun that stated, “They put on a service project event for foster children of Hernando County every year. “This event is called Polar Express. Foster families are invited to participate in the event each year. When they arrive for this magical day, families are greeted with games and activities, food, and even a visit from the big guy himself, Santa and Mrs. Claus.”
Ah, but there was much more to the Polar Express experience than fun and spectacle.
“This year, we served 116 children. The children received free books, bookbags with school supplies, and jackets,” read the information. “These were provided by the Knights of Columbus from Our Lady Queen of Peace Council and from the Free Masons out of Brooksville.”
Like in years past, these kids were identified through the Kiwanis Club’s partnership with Fostering Hope Florida, Inc. “We will be partnering with them every year,” said Jamie-Lynn Hamilton, president of The Kiwanis Club of Weeki Wachee, who also counts Vice President
Amanda Bartle as a valuable creative partner in the Polar Express effort.
The Grinch was in charge of driving a train that carried child beneficiaries and their families to a Christmas village. They received brightly adorned packages filled with gifts custom-selected just for them, and school supply packs brimming with pencils, colored pencils, crayons, erasers, markers, scissors and other essentials.
“We also had numerous donors who supported the event with monetary contributions or even brought us toys to wrap,” read the information. “Each child received a gift that was tailored to them from Santa.”
These gifts, said Hamilton, took numerous, various and fun forms. “There were lots of Barbies, sports equipment, arts and crafts stuff and lots of baby toys,” she said. “Crocs and tumblers. Sunshine Boutique, a local small business, donated toys too. The owner’s name is Sandra Vargas.”
And as the kids received their precious presents from Old Saint Nick, they had a lot of fun. “The children were also able to spend time with miniature horses that are used for therapy. These were provided from Kiddy Up Ranch in Hudson through Majestic Miniatures,” read the information. “The Polar Express event is a day of fun games and activities, train rides, food, and time with Santa.”
Kids did indeed get to meet Santa and elves at The Polar Express, and they got to play the roles of gingerbread people by way of some fun and decidedly gingery picture props. They played tic-tac-toe, ball-toss, and ring-toss games. Volunteers dressed in Christmas sweaters and elf hats entertained the kids, who navigated their way around their holiday haven via helpful signposts that directed them to Santa’s Toy Shop, Train Depot, Santa Cookie Spot, Santa Snack Stop, Reindeer Games, Mrs. Claus Crafts, Train Depot, Santa’s Mailbox, and Santa Land. They witnessed the singular wonder of Santa’s Mailbox, which offered direct delivery to the North Pole.
Parent and caregiver Stacy Bolster said that she and her children really enjoyed the Polar Express event. “We got jackets and handmade blankets, in addition to the gifts and school supplies,” she said. “This event was so exciting and shows us that the community cares.”
Hamilton agrees, stating, “Polar Express is an amazing team effort—without everyone, it wouldn’t be what it’s become. We would like to send a great big thank you to our partners on this event for helping us make this year another great success.”