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Santa visits kids early as reindeer rest up
The Telegraph, Sunday, December 24, 2000, Cathleen Genova.

NASHUA - About 40 kids watched their holidays brighten Saturday morning when Santa Claus dropped from the sky and into their back yard at the Nashua Children's Home. The young residents of the city's home for neglected and abused children watched as a helicopter circled the home's baseball diamond and landed in front of the bundled-up bunch cheering on nearby picnic benches. Santa jumped out with a red suit, black boots, and snowy beard, and he greeted the children with holiday wishes and bags of gifts. "It's really a special treat for so many of our kids that won't be having visitation with their families this holiday season," said the Nashua Children's Home's director, David Villiotti. Villiotti said the event was planned about a week ago when he spoke at a meeting of the Christ Church of Amherst and one of its members told him his daughter might be able to do something for the home.

Bob Connolly said his daughter, Megan Connolly of Manchester, Mass., is the president of Education Outreach, a nonprofit organization she founded in Massachusetts to take underprivileged children on field trips. When her father told her about the home and mentioned bringing its children on one of her outings, she said she could go one step further. "(These kids) aren't exposed to the things you and I are every day," Megan Connolly said. "It's Christmastime, I have access to a helicopter and the kids don't know about it, so it should be exciting." She said her friend John Donovan of Boston occasionally works with her at Education Outreach and pilots a helicopter. Connolly said she asked if he could find someone to dress as Santa and fly them both to the Nashua Children's Home to surprise the kids and give them bags of toys supplied by her organization. "I think it's fantastic, and look at all the kids," Donovan said as he watched the children crowd around Santa. "It's really great."

The Nashua Children's Home, which Villiotti described as a place for children to turn to when they just can't live at home, houses girls ages 7-13 and boys ages 7-18. Between the Nashua Children's Home on Amherst Street and its other location, the Concord Street girls home for teen girls, the homes provide refuge to 46 children. Villiotti said events like Santa's arrival on Saturday are important to the children, especially at sentimental times of the year. "We have so many kids for whom the holidays are a bittersweet time," he said, "and this really is a special holiday memory for them."

One 10-year-old resident of the Nashua Children's Home, Eric, said he was happy Santa came to his house. "It was very exciting," he said, digging into his bag to find a brightly colored beanie baby toy. His friend and housemate Brett, 9, also liked the surprise. "It's cool that I could see a helicopter at close view," he said, examining a kite he drew from his bag of toys. "It was also very exciting that we got to see Santa and get presents from him." Megan Connolly's sister, Lara Connolly of Amherst, works at the FleetCenter in Boston and brought bags of T-shirts and other Boston Celtics gifts donated by the basketball team to the home's teen-age boys. Her daughter Moriah, 5, said she wanted to come to the event to help Santa give presents to the children. Another resident of the Nashua Children's Home, 8-year-old Krysta, said she was excited about what was going to happen Saturday, but she had no idea what was coming. She said when she saw the helicopter, she was scared it would land on her at first, but thought its passenger was "great." "I'm glad Santa came," she said.

© 2003 Education Outbound