More than 100 people enjoyed Breakfast With Santa last Saturday. photo by Jeff Spry
More than 100 people enjoyed Breakfast With Santa last Saturday. photo by Jeff Spry

Four inches of fresh wet snow provided a nice soft landing for Santa's sleigh Saturday morning at the Breakfast With Santa charity event at the FivePine Conference Center. It's the biggest fundraiser of the year for The Little Cloverdale Pre-school, and included souvenir pictures with jolly old St. Nick, a silent auction, prize raffle and delicious buffet breakfast.

Parent volunteer and board member Kris Howell comes every year and sees the smiles on all the kids faces.

"They have so much fun, and it's important that this little school keeps running," she said, handing out gift baskets and auction items. "Miss Ann (Kauzlarich) gives them such a quality foundation education and I want to help it stay a viable part of the community."

After a hearty North Pole feast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, homestyle potatoes and fruit, tots and toddlers in snowflake sweaters and Santa hats clutched candycanes and hesitantly lined up to sit on Santa's lap and disclose their Christmas wishes. Girls in red velvet dresses and silver bell earrings mingled with classmates both past and present. Some crept shyly, others with bright smiles and a few unexpected tears. Parents and friends sat at banquet tables decorated with miniature Christmas trees beneath a ceiling of dangling ornaments as the yule log blazed and a chorus of pre-schoolers gleefully belted out a round of "I'm A Little Snowman."

Little Cloverdale teacher Ann Kauzlarich welcomed parents and conducted the pint-sized choir in another rousing carol.

"At first I was worried because of the weather, but then saw all the families sloshing through the snow when I pulled up. We're a small non-profit school and events like this and the support they generate is amazing," she said "It's a fun activity for the kids around the holidays. A good social time for parents and children to attend together. We've been around for 16 years, and started Breakfast With Santa nine years ago out at the schoolhouse next to the Cloverdale Fire Station with parents making pancakes and serving juice and coffee. We weren't allowed to cook meat because of some county regulation but for some reason pancakes were okay."

Between sessions with Santa, kids roamed the room, sipping hot chocolate and apple juice or drawing colorful Christmas pictures with crayons.

Robin Mynatt came with her children, Matttie, 8, and Brodey, 6.

"This is our first time. It's so festive and fun to run into your neighbors in a holiday atmosphere," she said, snapping portraits of over-excited students. "The kids are all dressed up in their finest and seeing their friends."

"I want to go make an auction bid on this little basket with puppy stuff in it for my dog Coco," insisted Mattie, trying to get her mom's attention before the deadline. "Hurry, I need to go make another bid."

Sisters Kendra and Natalie Sitz, 9 and 7, felt confident about their hopeful requests to Santa Claus.

"I asked him for a laptop computer and a Boise State Broncos T-shirt," said Natalie. Kendra remembers coming for the breakfast last year and wanted Oregon Ducks clothes and an iPod Nano for Christmas. "We ate breakfast and saw Santa and put tickets in the raffle. Our favorite part is having Santa here with us," she said, unwrapping another candy cane.

As parents and families filed out with auction baskets brimming with toys, soaps, ornaments, books and gift certificates, Miss Ann made sure she didn't miss a person and exchanged holiday wishes to one and all.

"Everyone at FivePine did such an amazing job to make this a special morning. It's our third year here, and they've been wonderful," said Kauzlarich. "The support for our school is inspiring. We had some really great donations. We're very grateful and very blessed."