Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For These Kids, July Is Good Time for Christmas

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

For These Kids, July Is Good Time for Christmas

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

It was 90-plus degrees in the middle of a sweltering Jacksonville summer, but inside a Mandarin office complex, a group of children were awaiting the arrival of Santa.

A Christmas tree bedecked with gold balls, multi-colored flowers and paper streamers with Santa bears and snowmen around its base stood in a corner. Festively wrapped presents lined a wall.

LaTrese Allen, dressed as a green felt Christmas tree with her feet encased in presents, danced merrily as a chorus sang Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree.

ABN-AMRO Mortgage/Citigroup was hosting a "Christmas in July" party for Dreams Come True, a Southpoint-based nonprofit dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses. Four families were invited to the event.

CHEERING THEM UP

"We wanted to give them something to cheer them up," said Brandi Cook, Dreams Come True coordinator. "They've been through so much with their illnesses."

The mortgage company considers Dreams Come True to be its flagship charity and has done fundraisers such as golf tournaments and bake sales over the years, said Ray Barbone, group senior vice president. This was its 14th Christmas party.

Because it was July, Santa had been vacationing in Hawaii and arrived in a short-sleeve tropical shirt, white shorts and blue lei. Accordingly, the party had a luau theme. With help from Mrs. Claus and a band of elves, he passed out a multitude of presents that included tennis shoes, toys, games, puzzles, watches, singalong DVDs and hot rod cars.

SHACOBY WAS EXCITED

A poster of a winking Santa, a sprig of mistletoe on his furry red cap, hung above a table covered with platters of food.

Velda Woodard said her 10-year-old grandson, Shacoby Woodard, was so excited he didn't sleep much the night before.

"We had no idea it would be so large," the Arlington resident said. "Everybody is so giving, so friendly and so thoughtful. …

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