My goal was to get some pictures of my friend, Jack Elka, playing Santa at the Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island. Yes, the famous Jack Elka, who plays Santa and The Easter Bunny every year on the Island! And who makes those fabulous calendars with his drone pictures.
I arrived well before the much-anticipated arrival of Santa. The children were eating their lunches with their parents. The Sandbar (Chiles Restaurant Group) has been doing this for 24 years and I could see that the folks were enjoying the chicken and fries and more! Some of the kids were hanging out with a wonderful group of characters: Mickey Mouse and Minnie, Spongebob Squarepants, Woody from Toy Story, Elmo, Dora the Explorer, and the fabulous Elves! Others were playing in the bounce houses on the beach. Some were getting their faces painted. They were having a ball!
This group of children is from an organization called Rise & Shine Early Learning from Step Up Suncoast. I talked with Jill Gass, Director of Development, while waiting for Santa to arrive and she told me about the way her organization is helping families to help their children with their education in Manatee County. There’s much more information about that on their website here along with other programs provided by Step Up Suncoast.
So, my goal of getting pictures of Santa was met plus, I got to see the wonder of Christmas in those precious little faces! And I learned about a group that is so helpful to families in our area. Thank you Sandbar, Step Up Suncoast, and my friend Jack Elka for a wonderful time!
Check out this slideshow!