Santa Pays Visit to Festival of Trees
It all began one Christmas season, 35 years ago, when Jim Horne, at the young age of 30, turned completely gray.
His calling as Santa Claus began in the local churches of Statesville, and he has been making yearly visits to communities at Christmas ever since.
Horne became part of the Sandhills Children's Center family three years ago when he chose to spend some of his retirement volunteering there. As autumn gave way to winter, it became evident that his volunteer efforts wouldn't stop with routine maintenance of the center's building. As the beard grew, so did Horne's love for the children, and this is how Santa Claus came to be.
Horne was led to his personal mission of helping children who are in need right within his own family. He was one of six children and grew up on a farm in Georgia. One of his sisters was born with polio, and the decision was made to move the entire family to the city of Atlanta so she could receive services at the United Cerebral Palsy Center.
"I saw lots of children who received a lot of attention at school, but once away from school, received very little," says Jim. "I was deeply saddened when I saw how the children were made fun of by complete strangers."
He decided right then that if he ever got the opportunity to give back to people, he would do so.
Horne would take the responsibility of bringing joy to others by setting up various visits for the Big Man -- at hospitals, adoption agencies, schools, even random doors and has been doing so ever since in different towns across the United States, from Georgia to North Carolina, and now to our own Moore County.
When asked why he continues to organize these visits, he says, "I can't tell you why, other than I really truly enjoy it. I probably get more out of it than the children do!"
Santa is scheduled again this year to visit Festival of Trees on Family Day, Sunday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to listen to children's wishes. Family Day, sponsored by the Southern Pines Women's Center, is general admission by any dollar donation. Santa will also be available Saturday, Nov. 14, beginning at 9 a.m. for a special breakfast available for the first 100 guests. Children and families will have private time with Santa, along with a special breakfast prepared by the chef at the Carolina Hotel. The price for this breakfast is $30 per individual.
Festival of Trees is an annual holiday event, benefiting Sandhills Children's Center, a private, nonprofit developmental day school program serving children ages birth through five, with and without special needs in Moore, Richmond and surrounding counties.
It continues at the Carolina Hotel in the village of Pinehurst through Sunday, Nov. 15. Local businesses, organizations and individuals donate gift baskets and decorate trees and wreaths to be auctioned off throughout the first five days until all bids close on the fifth night at the finale "A Salute to the Designers," complete with a live band and plenty of Christmas spirit.
For information, call (910) 692-3323 or visit www.festivaloftrees.org.
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