Deserving kids celebrate on the beach

Christmas for Kids
A little lady gets a hug from Santa Claus at the Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids. - Tom Vaught | Sun

ANNA MARIA – The weather on Wednesday, Dec. 12 was perfect for the Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids. It was sunny and just cool enough to make it feel like Christmas; and it was an early Christmas.

The kids came from Head Start at Rise and Shine Early Learning Center in Bradenton and RCMA non-profit child development center in Palmetto.

Christmas for Kids
– Tom Vaught | Sun

After they arrived, the kids enjoyed jumping in the bounce houses on the beach, hanging out with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Dora the Explorer, Woody and Elmo, doing crafts, having their faces painted and listening to seasonal music from Chuck Caudill.

One of the face painters was local artist Corey Wright.

“I read about the Christmas for Kids and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I found out they were going to have face painting, so I called them.”

Christmas for Kids
– Tom Vaught | Sun

Around noon, they enjoyed a buffet lunch and then Santa arrived on a fire truck from West Manatee Fire Rescue. As he walked toward the kids, they swarmed around him.

Christmas for Kids
– Tom Vaught | Sun

Finally, he got to his chair on the beach and passed out presents.

This year’s event was bittersweet as it was held on the 20th anniversary of the death of former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles.

Chiles Group owner Ed Chiles noted that as he watched the kids playing on the beach.

“After he died, I named this event after him,” Chiles said, adding he thought his father would be happy.