Santa Makes an Early Stop to Bring Inn Families a Taste of the Holidays

It was another hot and humid day in the greater Washington area on July 19. But for a few hours, that was forgotten by the families at The Children’s Inn at NIH as they took part in The Inn’s annual Christmas in July celebration. Santa and his elves – members of the NIH and Montgomery County Police Departments – came to The Inn and accompanied two buses filled with families to Rio Lakefront in Gaithersburg to shop for toys and more at the Target store at RIO Lakefront in Gaithersburg. The majority of gifts were purchased using gift cards generously donated by Pam and David Kanstoroom.

The afternoon began with the arrival of Santa at the head of a phalanx of motorcycle officers who entered the NIH campus and roared into The Inn parking lot. Santa greeted the crowd and invited them to climb aboard two NIH shuttle buses which had been adorned with Christmas decorations for the festivities. Then, the officers led the way to Target. The families on board rode in style, with officers blocking traffic and allowing the caravan to get there quickly despite the typical area traffic.

“It’s awesome to come out and be with these great kids and help them out and help The Children’s Inn,” Santa told FOX-5’s Gwen Tolbert at the event. “[The MCPD] brings quite a few elves to help out. They all enjoy shopping with the kids.”

Upon arrival, The Inn families were greeted by Laurie Yankowski and Laura Marsh from Peterson Companies’, RIO’s Lakefront property management group. They introduced representatives of Fantasticks who handed out frozen treats to everyone who wanted one. They then gathered around for a reading of Dr. Seuss’ classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas by an employee of the City of Gaithersburg’s Arts Barn. The Grinch himself came out and posed for pictures with the group, which then made its way into Target to shop for gifts.

Each family was paired with an officer from MCPD. They were free to roam around the store, with the toys and clothing sections proving to be the most popular stops. Christmas music was piped into the store as onlookers smiled at the sight of Santa on such a hot day. The shopping took about an hour, with many children thinking not only of themselves but of siblings, friends, and family members who they could get gifts for.

Gifts in hand, the families and officers made their way down the boardwalk and across the lake to the newly-opened Miss Toya’s Southern Kitchen, where co-founders Jeffeary and Toya Miskiri hosted the group and provided a buffet meal. After eating, the officers got back to work, accompanying the buses back down I-270 to The Children’s Inn.

“We have been doing this event with the Montgomery County Police Department for more than 10 years now,” said The Inn’s Senior Volunteer Engagement Manager Meghan Smith. “The families have been itching to go off campus and experience the community again, so this is a really special opportunity for them. We have about 18 kids and teens who got to ‘shop with a cop’ today,” and more importantly Christmas in July always creates some great memories for our families and we are so grateful to everyone at MCPD and RIO Lakefront who made this possible.”