NEW PORT RICHEY — The Marchman Technical College dining hall became a proxy for the North Pole Dec. 10 as more than 100 children were given the special opportunity to have a dinner with Santa Claus.

The event was a program of Pasco Kids First, as part of their Health Families/Pasco-Hernando initiative.

“This just isn’t about the meal, we have activities where they can make garland out of construction paper and decorate cookies,” said Becky Bennett, Pasco Kids First director of development.

The Marchman Culinary Arts students prepared a traditional turkey and dressing dinner for the families who packed the hall waiting for Santa’s appearance.

The Healthy Families program assists parents in acquiring parenting skills.

“We go into the homes at their invitation and teach them what they need to know about having children and being self-sufficient,” Bennett said. “We also teach them how to make toys out of things around the house instead of having to buy them.”

She said the two biggest events of the year for the families are the Christmas Dinner and the graduation event when the parents complete the program after three to five years.

For the dinner, the children were aided in their activities by students from Tarpon Springs High School, home of the Jacobson Culinary Academy, and J.W. Mitchell High School, in Trinity.

Santa appeared with a little help from his very close friend, Jim Simms, and everyone was able to get a photo with the jolly man in the red suit courtesy of local photographer J. David Wright.

Each child was given an age-appropriate present to take back to their tables and unwrap.