Braving chilly temperatures, a long line of expectant children and their families formed down the center of San Ysidro Park last Saturday, eagerly awaiting their chance to meet and take a picture with old Saint Nick himself, the one and only Santa Claus, at the second annual Winter Wonderland and gift giveaway hosted by Victory Outreach Ministries with support from agency partners including the City of Gilroy, Gilroy Police Department, Santa Clara Federal Credit Union, Gilroy Youth Task Force and South County Task Force.
Organizers expected up to 300 families—similar to last year—to attend the event, which featured a family photo with Santa Claus, gift giveaway for the kids, puppet show, coloring table, and hot beverages. Outside, officers from the Gilroy Police Department offered kids the chance to sit in the front of a patrol car and turn on the siren.
“This is a really good event—good for the kids,” said Gilroy resident, Lupe Chavez, who brought her children to the park.
Inside the park’s recreation center, transformed for the day into Santa’s workshop, were stacks of wrapped presents, organized according to age, and a pile of soft stuffed animals.
One by one, families were ushered into the center and after taking a photo with Santa Claus each of the kids were given a present and cuddly toy.
“This is so wonderful,” said Lydia Garcia after her daughter and niece received their wrapped presents. “I didn’t know they had this until this year; I really appreciate Victory Outreach.”
Bringing her daughter to the event for the first time was Gilroy resident, Patricia Foberg.
“It is a nice thing to be able to go out in the community like this,” she said.
Overlooking the festivities and spreading holiday cheer from their stage in the corner of the room were the fuzzy troupe from Victory in Puppets, a children’s ministry within Victory Outreach that uses puppetry to spread messages of hope and positivity to low-income communities throughout the state. They recently launched an anti-bullying campaign.
“I love this event, reaching out to the kids and helping out parents who might not be able to afford presents. It must be hard for them,” said Pastor Mike Vigil, during a short rest break in Saturday’s program. Vigil started the puppetry ministry nearly 20 years ago after being introduced to the performance art form by a member of Victory Outreach when he was 19 years old and had decided to leave the gang lifestyle.
“I fell in love,” he said of the first time he saw a puppet show. Since then Vigil has been on television and worked with the Jim Henson Company and grown his team to include 85 puppets and six puppeteers, including his daughter. Even though his home church is in Oakland, he just could not miss driving to Gilroy to spread the holiday cheer.
“This truly is the season of giving,” he said.