Christmas joy

Santa and the Oakhurst Elks Lodge 2724 hosted nearly 200 children at the organization’s annual Christmas Party Dec. 12, providing food, entertainment, and presents for each child.

Children, ages four to 14, attended the holiday party that has been held for about 15 years for less fortunate children in Eastern Madera County. The lodge holds a number of fundraisers during the year, including a crab feed, along with club member and community donations to make the event possible.

The children were treated to pizza donated by Round Table Pizza, hot dogs, juice, and ice cream. Patti Law’s dancers provided entertainment with a number of festive holiday routines.

The highlight of the party was a visit with Santa and a Christmas gift bag containing clothes specifically selected for each child by age, size, and gender.

Four lodge members, Tom and Mary Ann Zigler, and Jim and Donna Hosier spent three days doing the shopping, and 35 lodge members helped wrap the presents and assist at the party.

Each child received a new pair of pants, and either a flannel shirt or sweatshirt.

Amanda Marr, an Oakhurst single mother was at the party with her four boys - 13-year-old twins Hayden and Jordan, 8-year-old Izayah, and four-month-old Kyson.

“The boys are excited to see Santa for the first time this year, and it’s special because it is Kyson’s first Christmas,” Marr said. “It’s amazing what the Elks do for the community, and all these children that are less fortunate than others. What my children received today will really help out with Christmas.”

Shareea Wright was at the party with her two sons - Jeremiah, 13, and Ernie, 11, and 19-month-old daughter, Pasleigh.

“My kids had a blast,” Wright said with smiling Pasleigh on her lap. “I can’t thank everyone at the Elks Lodge enough - This was a special day that wouldn’t have happened without them.’

Shanan Metzger’s 4-year-old daughter Josephine loved the stuffed animal she received and her brothers, 11-year-old Logan, and 8-year-old Braydon, said it was a “pretty cool” party.

“The best part was being able to spend time with my mom, grandmother, and brother and sister,” Braydon said. “And the pizza was good.”

Brother Logan said he liked all the dancers and really liked the sweatshirt he received.

“The Children’s Place in Fresno’s River Park gave us a 25% discount on clothing and Old Navy also offered a discount,” said Mary Ann Zigler, chairperson for the event. “We would love to shop in Oakhurst for the clothes, but there just isn’t a large enough children’s clothing store to meet our needs.”

Coarsegold’s Rivergold Elementary School had 35 students at the party and Principal Bob Rose was there to give his support to his students.

“Our school’s motto this year is ‘Hawks Serve,’ and our students have been involved in Toys for Tots and Coats for Kids,” Rose said. “Today they are seeing first hand what community service is all about.”

Each child also received a free book donated by Sierra Tel, and a stuffed animal provided by the Mountain Bear Fan Club.

Foothill and Mountain Area school teachers and principals provided names of children who received invitations to the party.

The Lodge spent more than $5,000 on the party, with the majority of funds being used for purchasing clothes.

“We work all year collecting funds for this great Christmas party,” George Wright, exalted ruler of the lodge said.

“Some of these children have never received a new piece of clothing,” Mary Ann said. “Being able to help these families this time of year is worth all the hard work we put in for this party.”