More than 100 children, adults enjoy free food, fun, toys
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
While free food and entertainment for everyone and free toys for the youngsters were the top attractions for many attendees, the woman who organized the 12th annual Candyland Christmas Party said the event’s success provided proof of the real reason for the Christmas season.
“It was marvelous in His sight; to God be the glory,” said Betty Cox, founder and administrator of Change of Mind Outreach, which sponsors the party each year. “It was just awesome. I think everybody enjoyed it. A lot of people came for the hot meal; a lot came for the toys; and some came just for the event.”
Cox estimated that “about 125 to 130” children, from toddlers to teens, and adult chaperones were on hand for this year’s seasonal shindig, during which more than 300 toys and games — most donated, others purchased by Cox out of her own pocket — were handed out to the youngest attendees.
This year’s party was the second straight held at Grace Fellowship Church, which is much larger than the ministry’s headquarters, located at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Ridgeley Street, and has more than ample room for the crowd of holiday revelers who usually enjoy the event.
Door prizes, including a flat screen television that went to 13-year-old Escambia County Middle School student Meme Harvey, and 21 bicycles that were taken home by boys and girls of various ages, were also awarded.
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus (William and Sandra Boggan) were on hand, along with a group of costumed characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Muppet Elmo, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Doc McStuffins, Hello Kitty and Sponge Bob Squarepants.
“The young kids really loved all the characters,” said Cox, who had to recruit individuals to fill each costume after the person who was expected to take care of that aspect was unable to attend.
To accent the religious aspects of the event, Nevaeh Cox sang “Silent Night” and Kiana Simmons read the Biblical account of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke.
Each person in attendance was treated to a full, home-cooked meal, as well as numerous dessert items and snacks, including a seemingly endless supply of peppermint candy canes.
Dozens of individuals took part in the program by assisting with preparation and serving of the food and helping out in various other ways. Cox said those volunteers — with a little divine assistance — were the reason this year’s party went off so well.
“So many people took part, some a greater part than others, but it would not have happened without each of them,” she said. “I don’t want to call any names because I don’t want to leave anybody out. Everybody that helped knows who they are. Apart from God, they made it happen. I can’t take any of the credit myself.”