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Breakfast with Santa

By By Janet Little Cooper
Christmas came early for a group of area children Saturday morning in Atmore. The American Legion Post 90 Women's Auxiliary hosted their annual Breakfast with Santa for children whose parent or parents are serving in the military overseas.
"We have families in our area who either have a parent or both parents that are deployed to Iraq or somewhere else overseas," Women's Auxiliary president Mary Stanley said. "They won't be home for Christmas and we want to do something to help them out and hopefully to take some of the pressure off the families. It is our way of supporting our military servicemen."
The Women's Auxiliary accepts applications from military families and then purchase gifts that the children have requested and also give the parent a gift card for groceries.
The children come to the American Legion for breakfast and a special visit from Santa Clause who appears with a bag full of toys.
This year Santa had two special helpers to assist him as he gave out gifts. Siblings Bubba and Breanna McGowan had been recipients of the auxiliary's program two years earlier when their own father was away in Iraq serving a one-year term with the 711th Signal Battalion from Atmore.
"I was so grateful when they did this for my children while I was in Iraq," Dachary McGowan said. "It was a really good thing for my children. I am glad to be here with them this year. I am so glad to be home and actually spend Christmas with them this year."
Saturday was emotional for Barbara Whatley as she watched her daughters open their gifts from Santa. Her husband, Robert left for Iraq in October with his National Guard unit from Greenville.
"This is so wonderful because it shows us that people remember the sacrifices military families make and it shows that people think of us as we are here without them for Christmas. My husband was really excited when he found out that we were coming. It really makes them feel good to know that people care back home. Things like this really help our soldiers spirits to know that people care."
Whatley said that Christmas would be hard without her husband for both her and her daughters Marina and Ariel, but that they have family near by to spend the holiday with.
"We will spend Christmas with our family in Atmore and Bay Minette," Whatley said. "We communicate with Robert online on Yahoo messenger and we just sent him a Web Cam so that he can see us and we can see him when we talk. That will help the girls a lot just being able to see him."
Tyler Nelms was the oldest of the group receiving Christmas gifts from Santa Saturday. He was wearing a set of military dog tags that his father gave him before deploying overseas that had his picture on it with the words "Daddy loves you" inscribed on them.
"I think its real cool what they have done for us," Nelms said. "It is hard with my dad being gone, so this is really nice"
The children were also given a silver quarter from 1776 and 1976 commemorating the 200-year birthday of the United States.