Photo courtesy of Margaux & Associates, LLC
Dominick Garcia, 5, shows his delight and surprise at the Dearborn Rotary “Santa Snaps” workshop during the Wayne County Lightfest as he is reunited with his dad U.S. Army Specialist Jaime Garcia, following his return from Afghanistan.
DEARBORN – For years, it has been a tradition for Brittany Garcia’s family, who are residents of Garden City, to drive through the holiday display at the Wayne County Lightfest, then stop for pictures with Santa Claus at the “Santa Snaps” workshop sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dearborn.
This holiday she decided what better place to deliver her 5-year-old son Dominick’s biggest Christmas wish — the return of his dad, Spc. Jaime Garcia, from Afghanistan.
Brittany Garcia’s sister, Melissa Pangle, contacted Wayne County to help with the special delivery. The county then contacted representatives of the Rotary Club of Dearborn to arrange
for the surprise reunion of Jaime Garcia with his son. According to Brittany Garcia, the Wayne County Sheriff’s department was a big help as well.
On Dec. 22, Brittany Garcia went to the airport to greet her husband who had recently returned to his Army post at Fort Carson, Colo., following an eight-month assignment in Afghanistan. Dominick, who was busy playing with his cousins, was unaware of his dad’s homecoming.
When the Dearborn Rotary Club was notified of the surprise visit, Santa and his helpers agreed to help. Jaime Garcia and daughter Jacqueline Kochans hid in the storage area directly behind Santa’s chair before the arrival
of his wife and son.
Dominick’s mother was assured that her son would ask Santa for his dad.
“We had already paid a couple of visits to other Santas, and that was always his request,” she said. “The Rotary Santa that night was perfect, and he delivered.”
She videotaped her son’s request to Santa and his look of amazement as his dad suddenly appeared from behind Santa’s workshop.
“We’ve had a lot of surprises in our Santa Snaps workshop over the years, including marriage proposals on Santa’s lap, but this was probably the most moving of all,” said Dearborn Rotarian Jim Ives, whose own son is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan within the next few months. Ives was on hand to take pictures of the reunion.
Since 1997, the Rotary Club of Dearborn has hosted the Santa Snaps workshop during the Wayne County Lightfest as a community service and fundraiser for the club’s projects and scholarship programs.
From Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, it is estimated that 160 volunteers participated in the workshop, including members and friends of the Rotary Club of Dearborn; Fairlane Sunrise Rotary, Interact Clubs at Dearborn High School, students from the Henry Ford Academy, along with faculty, honor students and members of the newly formed Rotaract Club at Henry Ford Community College.
“It’s not unusual for large groups of family and friends to be photographed together with Santa,” said Dearborn Rotarian Rick Enright, who co-chaired this year’s event with Rotarian Jim Thorpe.
According to Hassen Hammoud, 2012-13 club president, good weather and extra days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas made this year’s event highly successful.
Hammoud said, “I don’t know how we’re going to top this family’s reunion. It meant a lot to all of us, and we thank Specialist Garcia for his service.”