Originally published in the 12/1/17 print edition of Yellowstone County News.
HUNTLEY — A special event at Chancey’s Event Center on Saturday, Dec. 9 promises children a chance to “Party With Santa.”
More than 250 children have already taken Santa up on his invitation.
Sandy McCaffree, founder of Blankets and Bears, said this week that she has already received RSVPs from more than 250 children who want to attend the Party With Santa from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re so excited” about the turnout, she said, which is “more than what we had envisioned.”
She’s quick to add that children may still come even if they haven’t already called in an RSVP. The first 200 children to arrive — in pajamas — will receive a gift of a pillow with a handmade pillowcase.
“We’re ready,” she said. “We’re excited. We just need the day to get here.”
The event sprang from donations made to Blankets and Bears in memory of Kurt Kautz, a Huntley Project High School coach and supporter who was killed in a vehicle crash in October. McCaffree said his mother, Susan Kautz, plans to open the doors and welcome children at 11 a.m.
The day includes lunch and crafts, cookie decorating, visits with Santa, who arrives at 3 p.m., and more.
“Santa has touched bases with me,” McCaffree said, and their plan for his visit is a go.
Chancey’s is a stop on the Huntley Christmas Stroll passport. McCaffree said she hopes people out taking in the sights that day “will be able to warm up and relax a little bit” at Chancey’s.
Blankets and Bears began in 2005 when McCaffree found out that seven children had been placed in foster care just before Christmas with few possessions. She was able to put together “cuddle bundles” of pillows, blankets and teddy bears so the children could receive them before Christmas.
Since its start, the organization has built partnerships and collected donations to keep providing the gifts for children, she said.
McCaffree said an anonymous donor just gave the organization a cargo trailer, which will be a huge boost to the group. After the Chancey’s event, they will deliver bundles of blankets and stuff animals at Lewistown, with more deliveries in Billings, Laurel and Lockwood after that.
“December is a big month for our organization,” McCaffree said.
“We’ve struggled over the years” to deliver big boxes full of pillows and stuffed animals, she said. At times they’ve rented U-Haul trailers or borrowed horse trailers.
“Someone had a big heart,” she said.