Santa Claus isn’t afraid of the snow, and neither were the more than 500 children who came to see him Saturday at Turtle Hook Middle School in Uniondale.
The Uniondale community kicked off the holidays a few days early at the seventh annual Holiday of Giving. The event, hosted by Nassau County Legis. Kevan Abrahams, aims to bring gifts and cheer to underserved community members.
“What today is about is making sure those that are not able to celebrate the holidays with . . . toys and visits with Santa are able to,” Abrahams said.
Children and their parents started in the school gym, where they participated in holiday activities with sponsors, including Bethpage Federal Credit Union and the Nassau Police Benevolent Association. Children earned stamps in their holiday “passport” when they completed one of the activities, which included writing letters to Santa and decorating cookies.
Around noon, Jayden Davis, 8, sat patiently while a volunteer finished painting a snowman on his cheek.
“The kids seem like they’re enjoying themselves,” his grandmother Sharon Davis of Uniondale said. “We’ve done the ornament making and the sugar cookies so far.”
Next stop was a visit to one of the event’s two Santas. Jayden said he planned to ask for a hoverboard.
“I know how to ride one,” he said.
This year, organizers expected more children than ever. The event occupied nearly all the school’s first floor with activities coordinated by school volunteers, firefighters, nonprofit organizations and more. In one room, children were fitted for free pairs of brand-new shoes from Uniondale nonprofit Heeling Soles.
Danayshia Cummerlander, 12, of Roosevelt, tried on a few pairs before settling on some high-top sneakers with bright blue laces. She had asked Santa for a cellphone, she said.
Meanwhile, her godmother, Marilyn Manuel of Roosevelt, was picking out shoes for her 2-year-old grandson, Kevin Carter Manuel.
“It’s a very exciting day,” Manuel, 57, said. “I was here last year and my grandson didn’t really know everything that was going on, but now he’s having fun.”
In the hall, families waited for Santa in a line that snaked around the corner.
“Every year, it’s been bigger and bigger,” said Terenna Williams, CEO of Hempstead-based nonprofit Glory House Recovery, which coordinated free toys for all the children. “Everyone in the community pitched in to make this event what it is.”
Back in the gym, Parker Coads-Leary hadn’t seen Santa yet, but said he was ready. At about 1 p.m., the 4-year-old from West Hempstead had just finished meticulously writing his wish list to Santa: a pair of gloves that look like the Hulk’s hands.
“This is always a great event for the kids,” his grandmother Scottie Coads said. “We still have a week or so left, but what better way to boost the spirit?”