12/17/06 — Wishes come true

View Archive

Wishes come true

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 17, 2006 2:00 AM

Jordan didn't want much for Christmas this year -- a ball or action-figure would do just fine, he said.

But when the 5-year-old picked up his new remote-control truck and approached Santa Claus, his eyes lit up and a long smile crept across his face.

"Thank you Santa," Jordan said. "Merry Christmas."

It was Christmas morning at Dillard Middle School Saturday for more than 650 Wayne County children who might not otherwise have had one, as volunteers packed the school's auditorium for the annual Empty Stocking Fund celebration.

As 9-year-old Telek surveyed the hundreds of toys to choose from, he said "thank you" to just about every smiling face he came across.

"I can't wait to take this home," he said, pointing to a bright red truck. "I'm gonna drive this everywhere."

But the morning wasn't just about the toys. Each child was given an oversized stocking, too -- a gift from Santa himself, filled to the brim with candies, cookies, snacks and fruit.

"Is this a real orange?" 6-year-old Emanual asked.

"It sure is," Santa replied. "What else have you got there?"

The boy had picked out a ninja action-figure, the "best toy" of the lot, he said.

"I wrote you a letter and everything," he told Santa. "You know I like ninjas."

As each child picked out his or her gift, volunteers on the other side of the curtain were leading those still waiting in song.

"Jingle bells, jingle bells. Jingle all the way," the children screamed.

Wayne County Bears commissioner Trish Alejandro was one of the volunteers singing along. She and the rest of the football team's staff showed up to spread some cheer to those less fortunate than themselves.

"This is what Christmas is all about," she said. "Helping these little kids."

Linda de Araujo agreed. As president of the Goldsboro Women's Club, she knows about helping others and just how important the Empty Stocking Fund is to each child who walked through the door.

"It's just the expression on their faces when they come up," she said. "Some of them are so overwhelmed."

Jose and his sister, Maria, were. The 5-year-old twins didn't know what to say when they saw all the toys Mrs. DeArujo and the other Women's Club members had picked out for them the week before.

"Trucks," Jose said, reaching out to grab one. "Wait, a ball. No, that guitar right there, please."

His sister knew he had made the right choice.

"But I want that," she said. "Help me find one."

Jose peered around the stacks of boxes until he found Maria the gift she wanted. When he handed her a guitar that matched his, she smiled and hugged her brother.

"Let's go get Santa," she said.

The children weren't just there to pick a gift and meet St. Nick, either. As they made their way to Santa's lap, the volunteers escorting them picked out boxes of clothes for each one.

Comatha Johnson said the clothing was as important an item to many of them as the toys. So, she and other women from the Goldsboro Chapter of the Continental Society, Inc. made sure they got them.

"They're getting a complete outfit," she said. "That's important."

Fellow society member Patricia Stokes nodded her head in agreement.

"It's such a blessing for the children," she said. "We always enjoy this."

There were others who did their part to make the day special, too -- donors from across the county who gave money and time to the cause.

Fund treasurer Barbara Sturm said more than $30,000 has come in so far and that donations will be accepted through the New Year until the $36,000 that was spent on the party is raised.

"We're going on faith that the rest will come in," she said.

And she "knows" it will. There are too many people out there who care about children for it not to, Mrs. Sturm said.

And to see the looks on each of their faces as they passed through Santa's makeshift workshop, it was hard not to care, others added.

"God bless you," 7-year-old Dontrell said. "You made my Christmas happy Santa Claus."