PORT RICHEY — Victoria Shaw sat on the carpet in her school’s media center and tore through the tissue paper that hid the identity of her gift. With a grin, she held up the matching pink hat and scarf set, knitted by a local charity group, and immediately put them on. Beaming, she watched as her classmates exploded with excitement.
“ I got a scarf!” one kid yelled as he tore open his gift. “Thank you, Santa!”
Victoria, 5, was one of about 330 kindergarten through second grade students at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Port Richey who was surprised last Tuesday with a visit from Santa and several gifts, Christmas pencils, candy canes, a knitted hat and scarf set from “Knitters for Charity” and a wooden toy from the Hudson “ToyMakers” group.
More than 80 percent of Fox Hollow Elementary School’s students qualify for free or reduced lunches, said Principal Dawn Scilex. Some of their families struggle to make ends meet and that struggle is magnified at Christmas time. So when a long-time volunteer, who asked not to be named, approached Scilex about finding a local knitting group to do the hats and scarves, Scilex readily agreed.
Scilex and the volunteer had previously worked at Mary Giella Elementary School in Spring Hill where another Pasco knitting group had done a similar event in years past.
“One gal alone made 100 of the scarves,” said knitter Joan Guariniello. “These ladies were incredible knitting hats and scarves and my living room was filled with them. These children need this.”
Knitters for Charity has been working on the sets for three months between their twice-weekly meetings at the Hudson Regional Library and at home. They wrapped each set up in sparkly tissue paper and separated the “boy and girl colors” onto different tables to hand out to each student.
After students got their gift from the knitters, they were directed to the ToyMakers table where each got to choose a colorfully-painted wooden car made by the Hudson group, who make about 20,000 wooden toys yearly they give out to 27 agencies in four different counties.
Several kids made “vroom! vroom!” noises as they rolled their gifts across the carpet.
“We don’t often get to see the kids actually receive the presents,” said ToyMakers president Bill Coccia. “It’s great to see their little smiles.”
While the details of the gifts were left as a surprise to the students, they knew the knitting group was doing something special for them so they prepared a holiday concert to sing their thanks. On the morning of Friday, Dec. 13, before the gifts were delivered, the “Fox Hollow Singers” sang to the knitting group at the library.
“We have so much community support this year,” Scilex said as the students lined up to sing. “These kids are going to see Christmas like they never have before. This is just a small way we can say thank you as a school.”