By Junior Writer Andrew Pierzchala and John Tapley; images by Will Riddle
Some of the fondest memories of childhood happen during the holidays. There is Halloween with its candy and costumes, then Thanksgiving where you devour delicious food, and finally Christmas with seasonal music, food, giving, and many more holiday delights. But not all are given the same opportunities; and for parents struggling to instill yuletide memories in their children, their options are limited. But thanks to the efforts of community projects centered on charity, the winter season gets a little warmer. Keeping its longstanding tradition to help spread goodwill and entertain children and scuba divers, dive club California Dream Divers of Modesto, California, recently celebrated its Scuba Santa Toy Drive event on October 22 at the organization’s sponsor, Aquatic Dreams Scuba Center.
The club strives to make an impact through donations of money and gifts, and by giving those “Happy Holiday” memories to children and families in a more aquatic way. Filled with spirit and giving, the event, centered around an underwater Christmas tree adorned with holiday cheer, was an opportunity for guests to scuba dive with Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. Forming its own lasting memories, the event enabled guests from eight to 80 to have their pictures taken with the jolly aquanaut with photography provided by local photographer Will Riddle.
But the holidays aren’t just for this age range, and in kind, the event provided plenty of amusement for younger children: youths under eight snorkeled with Santa, and infants and newborns posed with Père Noël outside the pool.
“One of my favorite highlights from the event was a little girl who was hesitant about getting in the water,” explains Aquatic Dreams Scuba Center owner Bonnie Vance. “She didn’t want to do it, but once she saw everyone else going in and having fun, she got in and had a great time.”
Core to this event was the spirit of giving with visitors bringing toys and cash to be donated to the Children’s Crisis Center of Stanislaus County: a private, non-profit program, which provides emergency shelter and childcare services.
In addition to local waterway cleanups, California Dream Divers has hosted the event for many years, and with over 60 members strong, has been able to share the joy of goodwill and environmental stewardship with countless people. The Santa Toy Drive has been a mainstay event for many years; according to Vance, it all started with an inspired pledge to “pay something forward.”
“We had over 30 people in the pool, and with those 30 people we received many toy donations, but more than that we received a lot of cash donations this year,” Vance emphasizes. “We received a $200 cash donation from a gentleman who came to the event, and raised upwards of $320 worth of cash donations.”
Overall, this year’s event was a huge success and everyone had a great time, and all parties involved look forward to delivering all of the donations they received from the attendees. Although Scuba Santa has returned to arctic waters, the toy drive is still open for interested parties who can contact Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org more information.