Santa Claus came early to Hudson Elementary School this year, delivering more than 100 gifts Friday to 18 Head Start prekindergarten students.
"It's a Hello Kitty doll! And it's pink!" 5-year-old Zoe Tantillo proclaimed as she opened an array of gifts that also included a Barbie and clothes and a hand-sewn hat.
Greeted with cheers and applause from students, parents and staff members, Santa showered the students with everything from Barbies to Power Ranger toys, superhero action figures to miniature cars — not to mention clothes and hats, both store-bought and handmade. Helping out with this delivery was a small but elite group of Santa's helpers.
For the 13th year in a row, the Summertree Ladies Golf League, representing the Summertree community in Hudson, shopped for and wrapped the gifts over a two-week period. Golf league representatives Patti Terry, project head, Barbara Badali, project creator, and Joy Lotito, Marge Grattafiori, Betty Graviano, Bobbi Brockmann, Judy Stall and Norma Sartell were on hand to see the festivities.
"Whenever we welcome new members to our group, I tell them that this is the best thing we do all year," said Lotito, who sang along as students performed a short program of Christmas music in honor of the Summertree Ladies. "This is the best time of year."
Patricia Blom, pre-k Head Start teacher at Hudson Elementary, agreed.
"You've brought so many wonderful things for the children," she said. "I've never seen an effort like this. It's amazing."
Zachary Grooms, 5, nodded approvingly as he opened gifts of a Power Ranger toy, a miniature racetrack and new clothes. Mom Christie Grooms offered a one-word appraisal her son's gifts.
"Beautiful," she said softly.
Lisa Ganes, parent involvement coordinator at Hudson Elementary, praised the golf league and other community groups and agencies that support her school.
"We get so much love from this community," Ganes said.
The school will get a visit early this week from representatives of Knitters for Charity and the Presbyterian Women of St. Mark's Church, both of which have pledged to deliver winter clothes to five area schools: Hudson, Fox Hollow, Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Moon Lake elementary schools.
"They've given us 250 sets of warm … clothes, including scarves, hats and mittens," said Fox Hollow principal Dawn Scilex. "That's enough for every prekindergarten through second-grade student at our school."
To say thanks, a choral group representing Fox Hollow appeared Friday morning at Hudson Regional Library, where they performed Christmas songs for the knitters.
At Hudson Elementary on Friday, students hugged and posed for photos with Santa as the ladies of the Summertree Ladies Golf League looked on.
"I got lots of stuff!" announced Hope Grant, thanking Santa with a hug and a big smile.