Atlanta's "Winter Wonderland for a Day" - from Katie Higgins, Chapter Director
December 20th and 21st, we hosted Winter Wonderland at the Peachtree Dunwoody and Gatewood Atlanta McDonald House Charity locations. We gave over 50 boys and girls cherished time with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Winter Wonderland is my absolute favorite For A Day program. The holidays are a special time for everyone, but for children the experience is magical. I am honored to bring holiday cheer and Santa Claus himself to children who would otherwise miss out on holiday magic because of chronic illness.
My favorite part of preparing for Winter Wonderland is toy shopping! I get to feel like Santa Claus while entertaining my own inner child. I especially like to buy toys that are crafty, artistic, or science oriented. Shopping online not only gives me the best deal but also gives me time to reflect on the past year's programming. I like to look through Ronald McDonald event photos and think about what each child would like the most. It's a great opportunity to reflect on the foundation's mission and past year.
Prepping for Winter Wonderland puts me in the holiday spirit, but the real magic happens at the Ronald McDonald Houses. All of our volunteers dress up as Santa's elves, reindeer, gingerbread men, or Queen Elsa. Set up is so much fun between the holiday decorations, piles of toys, and cookies for the kids (and Santa). Once Santa's big red bag comes out the kids begin lining up and asking about Santa Claus. Santa Michael and his wife, Mrs. Claus, have been with For A Day Foundation Atlanta for the past six years. His success with the reclusive children is awe inspiring. Santa Michael always finds a way to get even the most shy child to take a photo with Santa.
After the children meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, the For A Day volunteers escort them to a mountain of age appropriate toys. Each child gets as many toys as their little arms can hold. I personally like to discreetly listen in on what the kids are asking for and find something special just for them. Nothing is more magical than seeing the joy on a child's face as I hand them the perfect toy. Because of our generous sponsors every child walked away with a huge grin and a heart full of holiday cheer!
**A note from Jenna: I had the privilege of attending these events & meeting Katie & Barbara face-to-face. I was humbled to watch how many families were thrilled to have their Santa time that they otherwise wouldn't have had. Especially one little baby that had been discharged from RMH already. He and his family returned for his first Santa visit because his recovery situation wasn't yet ready to brave the general public. What a special opportunity this chapter has given the families!