The lunchroom of Olympia’s Capital High School was bustling Saturday with families waiting in line for a traditional holiday meal or the chance to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.
They were there for the annual Sea Mar Christmas party, which provides toys and food for as many as 500 Thurston County children each holiday season.
By noon, nearly 300 parents and children had shown up to receive gifts and participate in crafts and activities including face painting, ice fishing and the making of balloon animals.
Similar events were held elsewhere Saturday in each Washington county serviced by Sea Mar, a federally funded community health center that provides medical and mental health services to the uninsured.
The health center has offices in Olympia and Lacey, serving nearly 30,000 patients annually.
“It feels good to do these kinds of events because we don’t always get to have fun with our patients,” said Susan Amberson, the clinical manager at the Lacey office. “It’s a fun day to see people.”
It’s the 11th year for the party in Thurston County; it started with just a few patients at the Olympia office. Saturday’s event catered to hundreds of families.
Live music and a number of activities kept the children entertained while volunteer runners brought three gifts to every child.
Victor Amezucua, 12, of Yelm was a fan of the food, which consisted of all the traditional holiday favorites such as turkey, ham and side dishes.
“The food here is good, and it’s entertaining,” he said, seated at a table with friends. “The theme goes well with Christmas and the music is merry.
“Overall, it’s a pretty good time being here.”
Laurie Veatch of Chehalis and her two daughters, Josie, 16, and Emma, 14, came up to Olympia Friday to help pack the hundreds of gifts handed out throughout the party.
“The hardest things to wrap were the pillow pets,” Veatch said.
The family volunteers for at least one charity event every year.
“My daughters like kids and are good with kids,” Veatch said. “It seemed like a perfect fit.”
The money to purchase the toys comes from Sea Mar’s annual golf tournament in Seattle, which raised about $15,000 this year.
Local grants and donations help cover the cost of food, gift wrapping and other incidentals for the day. Sea Mar received $2,000 in donations this year, Amberson said.
There wasn’t as much food donated this year, she said, so the bulk of $2,000 raised went to food costs.
“Everyone is having a harder time this year,” Amberson said.
Any toys not handed out Saturday will be up for grabs at both clinics for patients whose children won’t receive presents at Christmas this year.
The Lacey office is at 669 Woodland Square Loop SE; the Olympia office is at 3030 Limited Lane NW.