ALTO, Texas (KTRE) - Christmas came early today for some children from Alto.
Over 100 children affected personally by tornados that ripped through their city on April 13 were invited to the Lone Star Santas Toy Convoy.
Something magical happens when 33 Santas show up.
"Ho, ho, ho," from a multitude of Santas could be heard at the River Church in Alto.
The hearty laughs bring hope after a troubling six months.
"We lost our home. We lost everything," shared Lily Flores, a tornado survivor.
She brought 9-year-old Melody Gomez who lost a special doll in the tornado.
Gomez said quietly, "My Baby Alive. I always played with it a lot."
There were no Baby Alives on the tables full of toys for selection, but plenty of others were there to bring smiles of joy.
“I got Slime. I really love Slime,” said Gomez, showing a big smile.
Lone Star Santas co-founder, Santa Jim Fletcher, can mark another successful Toy Convoy down in the books.
"It's (an) emotional opportunity. It's a labor of love. It's not only fun being a Santa, but it's a ministry of its own," said Fletcher.
The devotion brings Santas on their own dollar to Alto. Contributions appreciated.
“(We get) Individual donations. The moms and pops. We do both cash and toy donations,” said Lone Star Santas President Glenn Westberry before a big gust of chilly wind came in.
“Rudolph left the door open last night. I gotta go talk to him when I get back," joked Westberry.
The Lone Star Santas frequently show up after disasters for good reasons.
“It’s a joy to see the smiles on those kids’ faces because it seems like after a tornado like that it seems like the kids are put on the back burner,” explained Santa Bob Engle.
It doesn’t happen intentionally, but when 300 homes and 40 businesses in Alto are lost other priorities surface. A Santa visit can bring an active listener who knows what to say, or not to say.
"The worse thing to say is, 'I know how you feel,' because we've not been there," explained Santa David Stanley, who coordinated the Alto toy convoy.
Santas live all over Lone Star Texas and a few from Louisiana, so the most often asked question is, 'Who is the real Santa?
"We can't tell you who the real Santa Claus is because if we do, our beards will fall out," said Stanley.
Another Santa laugh was heard from across the room reminding visitors to believe.
The real Santa is there.
“A Baby Alive?”, said a Santa with Melody Gomez on his knee. “We’ll see what we can do come Christmas morning.
For more information go to lonestarsantas.org