It was a fun and festive Toys for Tigers Christmas Extravaganza on Monday night for the children and families of Wasco.
"We organize this to bring people together and give kids in Wasco a chance to meet Santa, write him a letter and enjoy Christmas activities," Madeline Nicole said.
The event put on by Toys for Tigers provided games, crafts, face painting, hot cocoa, cookie decorating, raffles and pictures with Santa.
Toys for Tigers is a charitable organization that purchases Christmas presents for children in need in Wasco. Last year, they served 400 children and about 300 families.
"This year, we have 300 families who have signed up. It makes me feel great. We love seeing people come through and receive their toys, but we love doing events like these where we get to interact with the community."
Erica Marin is another member of Toys for Tigers. She said, "Tonight is an event for Wasco to celebrate Christmas. Everything is free. We are not only an organization that gives toys, but we also put on a community event for us to be together during the holiday season."
Sharon Criner brought her son, Dakota. "It's a great way for the kids to get out, especially after the pandemic. There was something for everyone and all ages."
Brittany Sanchez thought it was fun for her boys. "They enjoyed it. We can't wait for next year. The best part was Santa and seeing their faces and how excited they got."
For Julia Villagran, it was her first time. "I think it's nice. There's lots of variety and games for the kids. It's a friendly environment and a wonderful opportunity to take pictures with Santa. I'm glad we came."
The Wasco Bengals participated as well, selling deep-pit BBQ dinners. "It was a fundraiser, but we were also here to spread love and cheer," lead team mom Elsa Gutierrez said.
"It's always great to give back to the community and to collaborate with the Toys for Tigers."
A highlight was the Christmas trees that were beautifully decorated by different organizations in town, including Community Support Options, Wasco Recreation and Parks District, Precision Hay and Almond, Wasco Elks Lodge #2419, North Kern Christian Pre-School, Maple Elementary School, US Bank, Orange Heart Foundation and Laura Boren.
Volunteers from local schools were on hand to lend a helping hand. Abigail Martinez is a Wasco High School student. "I came to make the community a better place and to stay in touch with the youth to make sure they have good role models."
Niki Espinoza is a community coordinator for Maple Elementary School. "I brought the student council to volunteer. They are learning to serve. It's a great experience for them."
After 22 years, Toys for Tigers founder Candy Wilson is stepping down from her leadership role. It was her vision for the children of Wasco. "I am officially handing the reigns over to Donna Ward and Tina Newman, and I am very grateful for them to take it over."