By: Dale King
The holiday season of 2019-2020 is quickly fading. But nearly 200 children from Delray Beach and Boca Raton whose holidays might have been less than joyful without the aid of community “elves” now have fond recollections to carry into the New Year.
The Seagate Hotel & Spa at 1000 East Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, invited 30 youngsters from The Achievement Center for Children to take part in its Annual Holiday Children’s benefit event on Dec. 12. The boys and girls in kindergarten and first grade enjoyed a special joy-filled event featuring Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, refreshments, arts and crafts and bags of goodies.
They all took home a book called “The Climbing Tree” written by John Stith and illustrated by Yukiya Pieletskaya, a tale about growing up, sibling rivalry and the importance of love and kindness.
About a week earlier, the Boca West Children’s Foundation held its annual holiday shopping trip for 140 local kids age 6 to 13 from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boca Raton and Delray Beach. As the children came off the bus, they were paired with a volunteer from Boca West Children’s Foundation who escorted their assigned child through the Old Navy Store to help them pick out up to $50 in new clothing.
After shopping, the kids went by bus to Boca West Country Club where they were greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus and entered a “Toy Story”-inspired fantasyland created in the ballroom. The kids enjoyed brunch, posed for pictures with “Toy Story” characters and told Santa what they wanted for Christmas.
Each child returned home with a toy from Santa, a Snuggie Tail wearable blanket and a food basket stuffed with a turkey, a ham, fresh vegetables and all the fixings for a holiday meal.
Coincidentally, the Boca West Foundation last month marked its 10th year of providing fun, food and a shopping opportunity for kids. As well, “It’s been almost 10 years” since the Seagate has been bringing holiday happiness to children, said William Sander III, executive VP and director of operations for the hospitality group. “We started in our second year.”
For the Delray inn, the holiday festivities were particularly special. Not only did the hotel and spa provide a fun- and gift-filled afternoon for children involved from the family-focused organization dedicated to providing opportunities for under-resourced children, but E. Anthony Wilson, CEO of Seagate Hospitality Group, donned the full St. Nick regalia for the final time. He will soon be retiring from the top spot at the popular Delray hostelry.
Carie Cody, the hotel’s retail manager, was garbed as Mrs. Claus to meet the children along with her “husband” and also visited with the kids in the Coral Ballroom, where the youngsters traveled via the Seagate Trolley. In the ballroom, they enjoyed holiday goodies, took part in arts and crafts and went home with a bag of Christmas treasures, including stuffed animals and popcorn from Delray’s Original Popcorn House, and their own copy of the book.
Commenting on the Boca West holiday spectacle, Pam Weinroth, the foundation’s executive director, said, “The kids had a fabulous time.” She praised the volunteers from the foundation who also turned out to lead the children around Old Navy and keep order in the crowded dining room where the Clauses mingled with Toy Story characters.
Weinroth noted that as in previous years, many kids wanted to purchase items for siblings and parents. “Some of the children wanted to bring back something for brothers and sisters.” While clothing was a popular choice for the kids at Old Navy, armed with a $50 gift card and taking advantage of a 10% discount, so also were stereos and headphones.
Weinroth, whose husband, District 4 County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, showed up wearing a Santa hat, praised her “team” of volunteers, including Shyra Johnson and Christina Irving, who sat with her at one of the dining tables as the kids finished getting their toys and heading back to their buses.
“I’m overwhelmed but happy,” said Christina, and Shyra remarked on the “amazing number of volunteers” who turned out for the morning-long holiday celebration.