12/24/09 — Santa's helpers: Fremont residents join forces so children have Christmas

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Santa's helpers: Fremont residents join forces so children have Christmas

By Laura Collins
Published in News on December 24, 2009 1:46 PM

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Fremont STARS second-grader Delani Frederick sits on Santa's lap Friday at the Fremont Candy Cane Project gift giveaway party. More than 60 students received gifts purchased by Fremont community members.

After realizing that not one, but both, of her sons received bikes for Christmas, Natasha Artis stood motionless, eyes wide open with tears streaming down her face.

"Do you see?" she said, affirming her earlier statement that the Fremont Candy Cane Project gift giveaway made miracles happen.

"It is truly a blessing because without this program I don't know what we would do. It's hard being a single parent of three," she said. "Times are hard as it is. But this is beautiful. It's the people who do this from their heart and bring so much joy to the kids."

Fremont residents purchased Christmas presents for more than 60 students at Fremont STARS Elementary School. On Friday, the students and their parents were treated to a pizza party, received their gifts and spent a few minutes visiting with Santa. Upon entering the auditorium with all the presents flooding the stage, some of the children could barely contain their excitement, jumping up and down and hugging one another.

Sheila Wolfe, principal, said families apply to be a part of the program. Students are chosen based on need and organizers make sure they are not already benefiting from another organization's generosity. Mrs. Wolfe said the community was extremely responsive this year.

"We always know that there is someone else that needs more than we need," she said. "This is a really supportive community and their support of this school is just astronomical. We never go without."

Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said he initially had his doubts about the program.

"Last year was really slow. We were struggling to get people to take 51 names. This year when they came in with 61 names, I was concerned," he said. "But by the time the newsletters got in the mailboxes, all the names were gone and more people wanted to come in and help. It shows that even in this slow economy that people are willing to help other people and kids, and I think it's awesome."

Since the turnout from the community was so strong, the school was able to provide more names of students, and the community quickly adopted them as well. April Horne, whose daughter goes to Fremont STARS, said being part of the program has made her family's Christmas complete.

"It helps a lot. If it wasn't for all these people who care, she wouldn't be able to have anything," Mrs. Horne said. "It means a lot that the people care about the kids."