Every year, photographer Wendy Wellington brings Santa into her portrait studio during the holiday season. But she was taken aback in 2009 when she overheard the Christmas request of one little girl. The child didn’t want a new bike or the latest Barbie; this little girl just asked for underwear.
“Our hearts just broke,” said Wellington, who owns Wonder, Simplicity & Beauty in Portraits in Pine Bush. Realizing that the need in this child’s family ran deep, she contacted the mother and scheduled a special day for the family with Santa in the studio, on the house. After seeing how much it meant to the little girl, Wellington realized that she “could do this for a lot more than one family per year.”
So she did. In 2010, Wellington began asking for toy donations in November. Local families in need were then invited to her studio for “Magical Moments with Santa.” They received a free photo shoot with Saint Nick, who presented each child with a donated gift. When Wellington saw some of the children arriving in sandals and lightweight coats, she organized a clothing drive. The community responded eagerly; when the families returned for their finished portraits, they also took home winter clothes for their kids, and enjoyed hot food donated by local businesses.
More than 100 children and their families are expected at this season’s “Magical Moments with Santa” on December 2. The event continues to expand: This year, the children will also receive a stocking full of essential items — including underwear.
Organizing this event has given Wellington a greater appreciation for the holiday season. “Sometimes you rush through the holiday,” Wellington said. “But now I enjoy it more knowing that we help these families.”