Lake Park Elementary School students chanted Santa’s name in eager anticipation of his arrival and promised not to peek at their gifts until his delivery to their classroom was complete.
They took turns sitting on Santa’s lap as he handed them gift bags labeled with their names. Then they simultaneously tore open the presents in a flurry of tissue paper and thrilled shrieks, examining their new toys and modeling their new shirts for their friends. An official “North Pole photographer” snapped pictures of the students individually and as a class.
Fifth grade student Taliyah Janvier’s gifts were just right for her: a sleeping shirt with a puppy on it — she likes puppies — and a Fashion Plates kit.
“It’s cool, because I can draw and color. I love drawing,” Janvier said. “I feel happy.”
The jolly, bearded man in the red velvet suit had some help from the elves of Palm Beach Gardens High School’s Future Business Leaders of America, their families and business partners in delivering gifts to all 373 students at Lake Park Elementary School. Each child received a toy and an article of clothing.
Former Palm Beach Gardens High School Assistant Principal Michelle Fleming became the principal at Lake Park Elementary School this year, and a new partnership was born. It’s amazing to see the connection and how much the kids enjoy it, she said.
The need is also there; about 97 percent of the Lake Park Elementary School students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
“Anything they can get, especially this time of year, is very much appreciated,” Fleming said.
The Future Business Leaders of America has a community service component, and its definition of being a leader is to serve others, Advisor Tammy Skinner said. They sorted and labeled the gifts for the elementary school students and dressed up as Santa and his elves.
There were three Santas delivering gifts at any one time. There’s actually a waiting list, Skinner said.
“These kids signed up last year to be Santa. They had to wait their turn,” she said.
Gardens High School freshman Faith Underwood and sophomore Lily Logsdon had more behind-the-scenes roles, buying and sorting the Legos and Barbies and accompanying Santa on his rounds.
Logsdon recognized Thursday’s gift might be the only one some of the kids receive this year and said she felt touched to be a part of the giving. As part of a separate event, the friends will also deliver gifts to a children’s hospital later this month.
“We’re blessed to bless others,” Underwood added.