More than 300 Sonoma Valley children enjoyed a day of holiday cheer under sunny skies at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday at the 13th annual “Race to the Holidays” Children’s Christmas Party.
The raceway teamed up with the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC) to host the children and their families at the event, which featured caroling, refreshments, a race car display, balloon animals, face painting and a visit from Santa Claus, who arrived via a Schell-Vista Fire Department fire truck.
The event, which has drawn more than 3,000 children since its inception in 2005, culminated with Santa Claus presenting each child with a full bag of toys and stuffed animal, as well as a toiletry kit courtesy of Verizon. Children ranged in age from newborn to 12 years old.
“This party means a lot to these families, especially this year after the fires,” said Silvia Castelan, translator and interpreter for Friends in Sonoma Helping for more than 20 years. “I brought families here that no longer have a house and they had to move out of the area but come back because their kids are in school here. There is one family whose baby was born a day before the fires, so I can’t imagine how hard it is to come here. This is such a nice day for these families.”
Upon hearing the children caroling his favorite tune, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Santa greeted the children on his way into the event hall before handing out gifts. The children left the raceway with new toys and wide smiles after a complimentary lunch at the Raceway Café.
“They were really excited to be here,” said Elizabeth from Sonoma, who attended the party with her two children. “I think my son fell in love with Santa. It was a lot of fun.”
All children were pre-registered through six Sonoma Valley youth groups, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, El Verano Elementary School, Friends in Sonoma Helping (F.I.S.H.), La Luz, Stand By Me Mentoring and the Sonoma Valley Teen Parent Program.
The raceway received a generous outpouring of support from the community as more than 1,900 toys were donated for the party. Supporters of this year’s event included: Blanket Brigade, Chevron Corporation, Exchange Bank, Falck Northern California/verihealth, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Levy Restaurants, Mariah’s Wishes donated by Christopher Boblitt in loving memory of his sister, Mariah Roat, McDowell Drug Task Force, Patterson Dental, Save Mart/Lucky Supermarkets, Schell-Vista Fire Department, Sonoma Index-Tribune, Sonoma Stompers, Sonoma Valley Fire Department, Sonoma Valley Firefighters Association, United Site Services and Verizon. SCC, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, has distributed more than $6 million to Sonoma County youth organizations since 2001.