The Cape Fear Botanical Garden halls were decked and all was merry and bright for the USO of North Carolina’s seventh annual Breakfast with Santa event, Saturday.
Seventy Families, including over 260 Family members spent the morning in Christmas cheer.
“It really is about bringing the Families together and remembering those that are not with us this holiday season. We hope that some of the Families here are here celebrating even though their loved one is not here,” said John Falkenbury, president and CEO, USO of NC.
Each Family received a bag of goodies as they walked through the door. The gift bags included items for the whole Family such as a message in a bottle written by Coca-Cola and Panthers Families, and raffle tickets for use during the event. Raffle tickets could be placed in cannisters corresponding with different prizes, which were raffled off, as well.
The most popular prize item offered was a Family pack of “Disney on Ice” tickets, according to volunteers.
Although planned outdoor games were canceled due to inclement weather, Families were invited to walk through and enjoy the garden grounds at their leisure.
Santa was available all morning to take photos with Families and make note of Christmas wishes and requests.
Pro Image Photography captured moments with Santa and Families were able to pick up Santa photos to take home.
The Richards Family spent some time chatting with Santa.
Twins Elijah and Eliza Richards, 4, each made one request of Santa. Elijah asked for Lego Dimensions and Eliza is hoping for an Imaginext toy.
Brenna Hicky and her sons Grayson, 3, and Milo, 1, were attending without Dad who was way at a training exercise.
Brenna said that although they chatted with Santa, they opted out of sharing Grayson’s four-page Christmas list, which includes nearly every Thomas the Tank Engine character.
“It’s really special because I feel like I don’t get to do stuff when my husband’s gone. So having the USO being able to offer it (Breakfast with Santa) and in an environment where everyone else is going through the same stuff as us, it makes everything so much so much easier,” explained Brenna.
A buffet breakfast was served while members of the USO Troupe from New York City performed for the attendees.
During their second performance, the members of the USO Troupe invited children out to the dance floor for a Christmas music dance party.
The event closed with a story read by Santa himself.
Children and parents alike gathered around Santa in his armchair, and listened as he shared “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” with the crowd.
The USO of NC’s Breakfast with Santa is a resiliency program with the intention of showing military Families appreciation and support through a good time.
“We want them to come away with the fact that there are people here that appreciate them for who they are, and for what they do and how they serve our country, and there is no greater feeling then giving back to the military during the holiday season,” said Renee Lane, Fort Bragg Center director, USO of NC.