Norman Rockwell painted scenes of everyday and holiday life as he wished it to be. The activity and abundant smiles at Dolphin Research Center this past Tuesday morning would have provided the artist with endless material.
Pre-schoolers at the Community Co-Op in Marathon were treated to a visit from Santa at the Grassy Key facility this week.
The event was organized by Larry and Rose Westburg of Delaware who decided to expand the reach of their Santa We Believe Foundation to the Florida Keys.
The Westbergs founded the Santa We Believe Foundation in January 2009.
The idea for the foundation originated from annual charitable giving each December when they were part owners of a small multimedia training business in Northern Virginia. In 2000, Larry and Rose identified a Head Start (HS) program in Alexandria, VA, and working with the Head Start program director, had the children write a letter to Santa identifying a toy they would like for Christmas. A date was set, the gifts were donated and wrapped by company staff, and the preschool class was transported to a neighborhood park, where they saw a puppet show, had lunch and received their personal gift from Santa.
The experience was particularly gratifying for Larry as he recalled the joy he felt as a child when the local Jaycees offered a similar holiday opportunity for him and his sisters.
The couple has also been active members of Dolphin Research Center for many years, and when the staff suggested adopting the Community Co-op Preschool Class, Larry and Rose were happy to oblige.
“With kids, dolphins and Santa, you simply can’t go wrong,” the couple smiled proudly.
After singing holiday songs with DRC staffer and guitar player extraordinaire Jessica Lilly, all hands were on deck to help the students have their first dolphin experience.
“The foundation’s mission is not only to provide gifts for needy kids but to impart an educational experience,” Rose explained. “This was just the perfect fit.”
The culmination of the field trip was meeting the big guy himself.
Co-op teachers recently escorted the children on a field trip to K-Mart where each child made note of one toy they would love to unwrap at Christmas. DRC staffers again pitched in to wrap an individually selected toy for each child.
As Santa called each child by name to come sit on his knee, the students dashed to his side. The parents, teachers and volunteers lucky enough to participate agreed that the biggest gift of all was seeing the smiles on all the kids’ faces.
Santa and coop kids
DRC Staffers like Jessica Lilly joined together to welcome the Community Co-op Preschool students to meet Santa and receive special gifts this week.