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Christmas comes early to 210 Valley kids

SIX-YEAR-OLD ANGELLI PACHECO, left, and her 9-year-old sister Evelyn chat with Santa Saturday morning during Sonoma Raceway’s Race to the Holidays Christmas Party. More than 200 children attended the annual party. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

SIX-YEAR-OLD ANGELLI PACHECO, left, and her 9-year-old sister Evelyn chat with Santa Saturday morning during Sonoma Raceway’s Race to the Holidays Christmas Party. More than 200 children attended the annual party. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

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More than 400 people enjoyed a day of holiday cheer at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday at the ninth annual Race to the Holidays Christmas Party.

The raceway hosted more than 210 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 2,000 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.

“This was fun. My favorite part was when we got the presents. I got a toy dinosaur and two race cars,” said 6-year-old Oswaldo Larios from Sonoma.

The festive event was held under sunny skies, and 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 Café.

“I brought a family of seven today who aren’t getting presents for Christmas besides this and they are over there like they just got back from the North Pole,” said Laurel Mohring, mentor facilitator for Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. “And the look on the mom’s face – it’s pretty special too.”

All children who attended the party were pre-registered through five Sonoma Valley youth groups, including: Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley; Friends in Sonoma Helping;La Luz Center; 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: AAA Sonoma; Gundlach-Bundschu Winery; My Girlfriend’s Closet; Sonoma City Hall; Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce; The Sonoma Index-Tribune; and Schell-Vista Fire Department. The raceway also received donations from American Red Cross, California Highway Patrol, Dick Sharke, Dr. Bob Nadjibi DDS, Lucky Supermarkets, San Francisco Specialty, United Site Services and verihealth, inc.