ELKHART — As the name might suggest, the “Breakfast with Santa” event is all about the kids.
The annual event, put on by the Elkhart Fire Department as part of the city’s Winterfest activities, is a chance for families to enjoy an all-you-can-eat breakfast as well as meet the man in the red suit.
Paul Womack, the man who has organized “Breakfast with Santa” for nine years, said the Saturday, Dec. 7, breakfast saw 1,560 in attendance.
That is a little less than the last few years, when about 2,000 people came to the breakfast. Womack said that’s likely due to the improved economy.
Besides the pancakes and sausage, children at the breakfast got a chance to take a photo with Santa himself. Each child also got to take home a gift bag containing a toy and candy.
There were also opportunities for arts and crafts and face painting.
Hats, gloves and even toothbrushes were available for children who needed them.
While the event is a fun time for families and their children, “Breakfast with Santa” is really serving a larger purpose, Womack said.
“They get a free meal; they get a toy with some candy in the bag. They get pictures with Santa,” he said.
“That’s why I do it, for the kids here.”
But “Breakfast with Santa” reaches even further into the community beyond the event at the fire station. The fire department uses the event as a benefit for local food pantries and other helpful organizations.
The cost of the meal was a nonperishable food item for children under 12 and $2 for any children over 12.
Womack said he wasn’t sure how much money the event raised, but estimated the breakfast brought in about $1,000 and many different food items.
“We get dumpsters from Himco, 96-gallon containers, and they’re full,” Womack said. “We get four of those and they’re full.”
The food items will be distributed among Faith Mission, the Salvation Army and Church Community Services.
All monetary donations are given to Child and Parent Services of Elkhart County and the pediatric oncology department of Memorial Hospital in South Bend.
But what has kept the event going for more than 20 years remains the opportunity to help children in Elkhart County during this special season.
“Years ago, you would get maybe 500 and now you’re getting over 1,500 kids,” Womack said. “For a lot of the kids in this area, this is the only Christmas they’re going to get.”