Like most people, Lori Eaton had a difficult time holding back the tears of joy.
“That woman just told me this is the first picture she has of her son with Santa Claus,” said Eaton, whose cheeks were as rosy as the red holiday shirt she was wearing Sunday. “And that little boy is now 3 years old.”
But that story wasn’t an isolated case. It was, though, why the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14 held its annual Children’s Christmas Party for its members’ sons and daughters, but more important, as Eaton emphasized, “kids from within the neighborhoods.”
“This gives us the greatest feeling in the world,” Eaton said. “It’s also the true meaning of Christmas. To see the eyes of all these children from the community light up when Santa Claus enters the room is priceless. For us here at the Elks, it’s our sequel to a ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’”
And with a Santa Claus who made Sunday merry for nearly 60 children who, had it not been for Lodge 14 and its many generous and caring members, may have gone without a toy or gift this Christmas.
“We get a list of community children and put a boy or girl’s name on a tag,” Eaton explained. “Then we hang those tags on our lodge Christmas tree and our members take one. They purchase a particular present, then make sure it’s gift-wrapped for today’s party.”
Eaton’s husband Mark, who is Lodge 14’s Exalted Ruler, and “Griff” rolled up their sleeves and turned chefs for the day.
They offered the day’s attendees a menu that consisted of pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, French fries, baked macaroni, fruit punch and a variety of different homemade desserts.
Lori Eaton, who Sunday was assisted by Tina Levesque during the careful arrangement of gifts, added another fun-filled side to this year’s party. She purchased the necessary items for all the children to make what her grandson Jack Eaton later called “Rainbow Crazy Loom” bracelets.
“And the kids just loved making those bracelets,” Mark said. “It was another way to make today special.”
The real star of Sunday’s show, though, was none other than Santa Claus, also known as Charlie Greaves, Lodge No. 14’s Leading Knight, who impressed young and old alike with his live portrayal of Jolly Old Saint Nick.
“Charlie does a great job as Santa Claus,” Mark said prior to completing his kitchen duties. “He’s a big fella … he’s got a great and real beard; and what a perfect personality of Santa. And Charlie just loves all these kids.”
Greaves didn’t just put on his spiffy red suit and walk in and out of Lodge 14 chanting, “Merry Christmas, ho, ho, ho!”
“Macy’s probably wished they had a Santa like Charlie,” Mark said. “He’s really entertaining … look at these children, they love him.”
Almost as soon as Greaves placed his overstocked red satchel on the floor and sat in his chair, he put away his pipe and asked the kids to sing “Jingle Bells.”
Then he began reciting that ageless classic, “’Twas the Night before Christmas” poem. But Greaves only read portions of various verses before he paused and asked the children to complete the lines, which they did in lively and unison fashion.
Greaves also made his presentation of gifts special for each child. He called out their name and after the girl or boy scooted to Santa, he lifted the youngster onto his knee and presented a gift bearing that youngster’s name.
“There are gifts like Barbie Dolls, Matchmaker Adventure and more,” Lori Eaton said when asked what type of gifts Santa delivered Sunday. “All the children were thrilled.”
Before his departure back to the North Pole, Santa Greaves wished young and old his best wishes for health and happiness this holiday season and throughout 2014. He also completed that famed Christmas poem in style, chanting, “Merry Christmas to all,” then listened as the children shouted, “And to all a good night!”