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Sat, 15 Dec 2012, 19:03 PM

Nearly 250 Children Attend Race to the Holidays Christmas Party at Sonoma Raceway
Courtesy of Diana Brennan
Photo by Joe Jacobson

SONOMA, Calif. --

More than 500 people enjoyed a day of holiday cheer at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday at the 8th annual Race to the Holidays Christmas Party.

The raceway hosted more than 230 Sonoma Valley children and their families at the event, which featured caroling, refreshments, a car display, balloon animals and a visit from Santa Claus, who arrived via special transportation on a Schell-Vista Fire Department fire truck.

The event, which has attracted more than 1,800 children since its inception in 2005, culminated with Santa Claus presenting each child with a bag full of toys. Children ranged in age from newborn to 12-years-old.

"I had so much fun today," said Sonoma's Angeles Qunitero, six years old. "My favorite part was getting a gift, getting a stuffed animal and seeing Santa."

The festive event was held under cloudy skies, but all of the children left the raceway with new toys and wide smiles. Following the toy distribution, everyone was treated to a free lunch at the Raceway Caf?.

"This is a great opportunity for these families, some of whom cannot afford gifts this year," said Maria Calvillo, receptionist and client resource assistant at La Luz Center in Sonoma. "It's been a really tough year for some of them, so this means a lot."

All children who attended the party were pre-registered through six Sonoma Valley youth groups, including: Friends in Sonoma Helping; La Luz Center; Sonoma Valley High School Teen Parent Program; Valley of the Moon Boys and Girls Club; Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance; and the WillMar Family Grief and Healing Center.

The raceway received a generous outpouring of support from the community as more than 700 toys were donated for the party. Some of the drop-off locations included: Sonoma Valley Index Tribune; Sonoma Valley Sun; Gundlach-Bundschu Winery; Schell-Vista Fire Department; Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce; the Sonoma Valley Fire Department; and Redwood Credit Union. The raceway also received toy donations from United Site Services and the Sonoma Valley Mother's Club, as well as toothbrushes and toothpaste for each child from the American Red Cross.

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