Rotarians from all walks of life made the 2017 Rotary Club of Santa Clara Christmas for Kids not only bigger this year but, by all accounts, better. It brought the joy of giving as well as receiving to 164 students from Bowers, Briarwood and Scott Lane elementary schools in the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD).
On Dec. 14, the students arrived at Lexus of San Jose on Stevens Creek Blvd. like royalty, in four silver coaches provided by Royal Coach Tours. The coach drivers had donated their services.
“This year we wanted not just to give kids gifts but to make it an afternoon of fun where they get to experience the joy of giving as well as getting,” said event chair Colleen Noll.
At Mrs. Claus’s General Store, stocked by the Rotarians, the children selected a gift to give to a family member. They wrapped them with help from Cabrillo Middle School leadership class volunteers. Students from the Santa Clara High School Interact Club also helped out.
“It was the first gift one girl ever wrapped. Another girl said she wanted a gift for her grandma, who has cancer,” said Noll. “We think that the kids really want to give, not just get.”
The kids also artistically decorated and presented thank you notes to the bus drivers and Lexus, the venue of the party for a sixth year.
“Lexus really looks forward to this. Everyone gets involved. People even come in on their day off. You see how happy it makes these kids,” said Rotarian Joe Hart, Lexus Fleet Sales Manager.
“This is a fun gig!” said Santa (Bob Buchser), arriving at the party in a Lexus convertible.
For the first time, the Rotary Club teamed up with the Family Giving Tree, which fulfills the exact holiday wishes of families in need. So this year, each child received a specific gift they requested that had been donated by Santa Clara community members to the Family Giving Tree. The Rotarians bought each child a new jacket in their size, a book and a stuffed animal.
The Rotarians dished up pizza for lunch, and Starting Arts Executive Director Ann Watts and her team of artists coordinated arts and crafts and face painting. Santa Clara Police Department Chief Michael Sellers and Assistant Chief Dan Winter brought the department’s cool Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) car and lion mascot. Sharkie, the San Jose Sharks mascot, and Fire Department Chief Bill Kelly mingled with the kids.
“It’s a very exciting and happy place,” said 5th grader Kimberly from Bowers Elementary School. “I like the arts and crafts. I got my face painted. I got a stuffed bear for my little sister.”
Executive Director Charles Frost and three other Santa Clara Vanguards played holiday songs. Then just before returning to school, the students sat on the floor and sang “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”
“The generosity of the Rotarians and Lexus is amazing,” said Bowers principal Lisa Blanc, adding, “I always notice the new coats the kids are wearing on the playground.”
“When the students’ parents pick them up from school, they sit with them and go through their bags (of gifts),” said Briarwood principal Susan Jezyk. “The parents are very grateful and impressed with what the students did and how much fun they had and how generous the Rotary was.”
“I overheard one of the students say ‘That’s exactly what I wanted!’ after he got his picture taken with Santa and got his new jacket,'” said Andrew Lucia, SCUSD Assistant Superintendent. “It warmed my heart.”
“This will create a memory that the students will never forget,” said Lucia. “Same here as well!”