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Proud to be Santa

Master Sgt. Kevin Duriig from the Marine Cops Security Force at Bangor Submarine Base looks down and smiles at kids greeting Santa Claus during the Toys for Tots program at the Kitsap Pavilion on Saturday. See story and more photos on page A10. - Photo by Jim Bryant
Master Sgt. Kevin Duriig from the Marine Cops Security Force at Bangor Submarine Base looks down and smiles at kids greeting Santa Claus during the Toys for Tots program at the Kitsap Pavilion on Saturday. See story and more photos on page A10.
— image credit: Photo by Jim Bryant

The kids were all smiles.

Some parents were a little embarrassed. Others were adamant “It was only for this year,” since next year they’ll be back on track, economically. Many were working parents who still couldn’t make ends meet. Some were disabled and unable to work.

“I want to open each of my presents when I get back to my cousins’ house,” said Jasmine, 9, there with three of her cousins and her aunt.

Carolynne Bowlen, aunt to Jasmine and mother to the other three: Katelynne, 3; Brittney, 5; and Tailer, 4 — all girls.

“No, you’re not going to open them. They’re to be saved for Christmas,” said Bowlen.

“We did this last year too,” she said. “Santa was nice ... we’re able to put a lot more presents under the tree.”

The Marine Corps Reserve and Marine Corps League, Olympic Peninsula Detachment helped collect, wrap and give away 3,000 gifts for 1,500 to 1,800 needy kids that came to the Kitsap County Fairgrounds Pavilion Saturday, Dec. 13.

Arnette Haakenson of Bremerton was ecstatic.

“It was wonderful,” she said, three kids in tow. “They wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas without this. It’s all about the kids.”

Her children, Kiera, 13, Tila, 4 and Sarah, 3, each got to see Santa and each received a plastic bag with three wrapped presents.

She commented that she’d just been laid off, “at Christmas — the most horrible time of the year to be laid off.”

Suzanne Hamilton of Silverdale said her daughter, 11-month-old Savannahmarie, just sat on Santa’s lap and didn’t say a thing.

“But it was a good experience for her.” Mom was grateful for the bag of gifts.

Quincella Johnson of Bremerton was there with four of her grandchildren. “Three from my daughter and one from my son. Brittany, 11, Whitney, 7, Chauntic, 9 and Chantel, 13

Bowlen was handicapped and in a scooter-like wheelchair.

“I love Toys for Tots,” she said. “They’re good people.”

She added that after raising her own children, now she was in the position of raising her children’s children. She didn’t elaborate.

“I thought it was really great,” said Heidi Paul of Silverdale. She brought each of her two children — one hers and the other a foster child — “One at a time so they could do their own thing.”

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