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Making a Christmas Memory : Imported Snow Puts the Icing on a Holiday Party for 2,500 Foster Children

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Foster children from all over southern Los Angeles County discovered a Christmas wonderland in Compton this week--one with snow and reindeer, games and gifts.

Santa Claus was there too as 2,500 children, from toddlers to teen-agers, explored the magical milieu set up at the Compton Ramada Hotel.

Man-made snow--50 tons of it--had been spread out on the lawn, and it was not long before youngsters were slipping and sliding and snowballs were flying.

There were pony rides, giant inflated balls to roll on, a “moon bounce” trampoline and even a couple of caged reindeer to look in the eye.

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Inside the hotel, Ronald McDonald performed magic tricks and young artists supplied by Motown Records sang up a storm.

Santa Claus, with Minnie and Mickey Mouse as helpers, posed for photos with the youngsters and listened to their Christmas wishes. The children took away gifts ranging including stuffed animals and board games and clothing, and they feasted on pizza, cookies and soft drinks in the ballroom.

“This is about making a memory, about being a child and enjoying Christmas as the ultimate,” said Wini Jackson, community affairs officer with the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services, who coordinated the giant party Monday with the help of volunteers. Several donors provided everything from food to entertainment and gifts. “I wanted them to have the best Christmas of their lives and be exhausted from fun.”

Many of the youngsters said the daylong party was their best Christmas gift. “I like it, meeting all the people, getting our picture taken with Santa,” said 12-year-old Dawn.

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“I love it, Santa Claus, the toys, the food,” exclaimed 12-year-old Chotsani.

Of the delights the children encountered, the snow seemed to be the hit of the day. For some, it was a brand-new experience, and they pelted each other and even the foster parents who care for them.

“I’ve never handled snow before,” said 10-year-old Barbara. “It felt like ice and it’s fun.”

The Compton celebration was for youngsters in the 2nd District represented by of County Supervisor Kenneth P. Hahn, who arrived in a horse-drawn buggy. “We will have a great Christmas, being happy, saying ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men,’ ” Hahn said as he greeted the crowd.

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Though there have been several parties for foster children under county supervision in various areas, Compton’s was the biggest, said Peter Digre, children’s services director.

“I’ve been terrifically impressed by the scope of the thing,” he said. “These are children who have been abused or neglected by their families and have been removed from their families by court order. Many would not have a Christmas without this.”

Ocie Goodson, a Los Angeles foster mother who cares for five children between the ages of 2 and 10, said it was a wonderful day for the children. “It’s making them feel good about themselves, that someone cares, especially at this time of year,” she said.


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