Friday morning, a group of lucky second grade students from and Elementary Schools enjoyed an early Christmas present: a trip to the Philadelphia Police Department's to meet police officers, Mummers, a clown, and even the man in red himself.
This year marks the 43rd annual 5th District Holiday Party for local second graders, according to Officer Charlie Kline. Through generous giving from local businesses and residents, the department was able to give gifts to each of the 50 kids invited to attend.
Each year, a rotating set of two second grade classes from local elementary schools are invited to attend the police department event.
It really is a community effort to bring the party together, Kline said. Kline thanked sponsors for the Christmas tree, for toys, and for the kids' lunches, Restaurant Depot for their supplies, all the police staff who assisted with the event, and all the local residents and businesses who donated for the party.
"This district is so helpful, so generous—and they always come through for this party," Kline said.
The second graders sang Christmas carols with a band of bedazzled Mummers—who, for some tunes, wrangled teachers and police officers into participating as well—and enjoyed a magic show from a clown, all leading up to Santa's arrival in style on a fire truck, with Mrs. Claus in tow.
Kids lined up and told Santa their Christmas wishes, then received their toys.
"The kids were so excited when they found out, they couldn't wait to come," said Colleen Kelleher, a second grade teacher at Holy Child. "They heard from students who had come in the past about how fun it was, and it just made them all that much more excited."
"It's wonderful," said Irene Klein, a second grader teacher from Levering. "I think it helps the children realize that police are friendly—that they don't have to be in fear. You respect them, but you see that they're nice guys, and I think coming to the station helps with that."
Looking into the room where her students were singing Christmas carols, Klein said she knew of at least four or five students for whom this may be the only Christmas celebration they have.
"The economy has been bad—it's getting a little better, but it just hurts you when you hear the stories of these families," she said.
"To me, Christmas is all about kindness and caring," she said. "… The kids love this, and hopefully, it encourages them to give back when they're older."
Klein said she'd been to the party a few times in her 11 years at Levering, and that it was always a blast. "I'm so happy I'm a second grade teacher," she said, smiling.
Check back this weekend for a full photo gallery of the day's festivities.