VISTA — More than 20 volunteers from the Vista Elks Lodge gathered on Dec. 2 to wrap more than 200 toys for an upcoming party. On Dec. 15, the toys will be doled out to special needs children, ranging from preschool age to teenagers, who will visit the Vista Elks for a day of Christmas wonderland fun.
It’s estimated that 215 children from schools in the Vista and San Marcos area will be in attendance.
To help make those Christmas wishes come true, it took nearly three hours for Vista Elks volunteers to wrap the donated new toys.
According to Howard Dyson, a co-chair of the event, the Vista Unified School District will provide transportation for the children to the event. The festivities will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The party will occur within two timeframes. Younger children will attend in the morning, and older children will take part in the event later in the day.
“As soon as the kids come through the door, they get a stocking which has candy, a bunch of toys and coloring books,” Dyson said. “The kids also perform on our stage, and they have a lot of fun singing.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus have also penciled in the day on their calendars to make an appearance.
Dyson said the Vista Elks have hosted this longstanding tradition for more than 40 years.
James Leitholf, the Exalted Ruler at the Vista Elks Lodge, said the event is part of its Charity to Children program. Leitholf has also been chosen to read “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” to the children.
On a personal level, Leitholf described the day as incredibly touching and unbelievable.
“Last year, I remember seeing all these little kids coming in and I could see the Christmas spirit and wonder,” Leitholf said. “The day can really bring a tear to your eye.”
Dyson echoed his sentiment. He is chairing the event with three other individuals, including his wife Deb Dyson, Joyce Ford and Wayne Ford.
Dyson said preparations for the special event start in October. The Vista community comes together to lend a helping hand.
“Even the little market down the street gave us $40 toward the purchase of some fruit juice for the kids,” Dyson said.
Leitholf attributes public support to the Vista Elks Lodge’s long-lasting commitment to helping children.
“Every year, we need to start our planning earlier to fulfill the needs of the kids,” he said, adding that the guest numbers have grown over the years as the event has become more popular.
The Vista Elks Lodge is proud to have become a destination to help all children smile during the holiday season.