HUDSON — “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” read Rick Hess, excecutive director of Pasco Kids First, as dozens of young children gathered at his feet.
The storytime was part of the Health Families Pasco-Hernando’s 14th annual “Brunch With Santa” for the “Mommies, Daddies and Me” group that meets monthly. This was the second year the event was hosted at St. Marks Presbyterian Church in Hudson.
The event offered freshly-made pancakes and ham, which was donated by Honeybaked Ham. After everyone finished eating, Hess read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children before they climbed on Santa’s lap for a photo and to tell the jolly elf what their hearts desired. As each child clambered down, they were given a wrapped gift purchased with money donated by Phi Delta Cappa, a fraternity out of Odessa.
For 1-year-old Blake Cornwell, it was his very first visit with Santa.
“He was born right before Christmas last year so this is his first real Christmas,” said Blake’s mother, Jennifer Carlton.
The event was put on by Pasco Kids First and their Healthy Families Pasco-Hernando program in conjunction with StayWell, a WellCare program providing affordable health coverage to children across the state.
Each month, the “Mommies, Daddies and Me” group meets with Pasco Kids First employees and other parents for fun activities and community support. The group is part of the Healthy Familes Pasco-Hernando program, a voluntary home-visiting program for expectant parent and families of newborns. Employees help new families build parenting skills and relationships, as well as link them to resources and services in the community.
Several of the families are low-income but not all of them are, said program manager Becky Bennett. The program works on a case-by-case basis with families to help them with individual needs.
“I’d hope, if I had a baby, that there was a program that could help me because I’m not familiar with developmental stages, like when a child should be walking,” Bennett said.
Pasco Kids First is located at 7344 Little Road in New Port Richey. For more information about the program or how you can get your family involved, call (727) 845-8080.