Project Santa spreads Christmas cheer |

Project Santa spreads Christmas cheer

by Caryn Haller
Three-year-old Gabriella Pickard looks at her new bike during Project Santa Claus distribution at the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

When 3-year-old Gabriella Pickard rides her new pink Huffy bicycle Christmas morning, she’ll have no idea all the time and effort that went into making it happen.

Santa’s helpers have been working since October collecting, sorting and wrapping Christmas presents for 647 children and 280 families.

“She asked Santa for a bicycle. She’s going to be very excited. It’s all she’s been asking about,” Gabriella’s father, Bernie, said Saturday at the fairgrounds. “Project Santa Claus means everything to us. Right now, it’s hard. We’re really thankful to have them help us and our daughter for Christmas.”

Kiwanis Club of Carson Valley, Rotary Club, Rite of Passage, China Spring and other volunteers helped Santa complete his list for the Valley.

“This year is really, really good. It’s all about giving,” head elf Gary Dove said. “We get to have the privilege of helping families in need up until the last moment. We try to make the families’ and children’s lives better.”

A Rite of Passage student-athlete smiled as she loaded bags into a woman’s car.

“It makes me happy helping other families. I had help growing up,” the 16-year-old said. “Seeing the smiles on their faces lets me know they are blessed that their children are having Christmas.”

Although Resendiz won’t be able to spend Christmas with her family this year, she had a special request for Santa.

“I asked Santa to bless my family,” she said. “I’m hoping to have Christmas with them next year.”

While waiting in line, Amy Fuller shared a holiday tradition she has enjoyed with her five children, ages 2-10, since they were born.

“Each year they get to pick out their own ornament, so each year the tree has to get bigger and bigger,” she said. “It’s something that’s special to each of them. They like putting their own ornament on the tree.”

Fuller said she enjoys the morning flurry of wrapping paper as the children tear into their presents.

“I love seeing the look of surprise on their face Christmas morning,” she added.

A China Spring student helped distribute 184 bicycles to the families.

“It’s nice seeing the smiles on everyone’s face,” the 16-year-old said. “I’ve learned how little things can help people so much.”