About 400 children--some terminally ill, others homeless, still others survivors of life-threatening diseases--took a special tour of Newport Bay on Kids Night at the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade.
"It was fun!" exclaimed a wide-eyed 7-year-old who is recovering after two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for leukemia.
Newport Beach residents Geoffrey and Carole Landon put together Kids Night every year to brighten the holidays for children.
"They sparkle when they see the lights," said Carole Landon, who hosted the two-hour cruise Thursday on a catamaran rented for the evening while husband Geoffrey navigated the family yacht.
"If I had a big enough house, I'd take them all home," she said while she and her 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, distributed white sweatshirts with the words "Merry Grinchmas" to the guests.
For the nine years that the Landons have taken part in the parade, they have used theclassic children's book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," by Dr. Seuss, as their decorating theme.
"The Grinch is the worst Christmas character," Carole Landon said.
"But in the end he has the biggest heart."
Geoffrey Landon is known in the boating community as "Mr. Grinch," she said. "He's all concrete on the outside but has a heart of gold."
The Landons began their holiday custom six years ago, taking about 20 children out on their 50-foot boat.
As word of their charity spread, volunteers and financial sponsors came forward, giving so generously that this year the Landons could charter the 118-foot catamaran for one night during the six-day parade, which ends tonight.
The Landons invite children and their parents through such agencies as the Pediatric Cancer Research Laboratory of Children's Hospital of Orange County; Make-A-Wish Foundation for children who are terminally ill; and Orangewood Children's Home and Olive Crest, both shelters for abused or neglected children.
"Children don't need to suffer for what we as parents are going through," said Jesse Simpson, who is staying at Orange Coast Interfaith's shelter with his four children, all under 10 years old.
The holiday cruise, he said, "is really important for my children. We didn't think we were going to have a Christmas."