PASCO — "I thought Santa was coming to my house, not my school."
That's what 4-year-old Joaquin told his mom, Consuelo Palomino of Pasco, after he received a bag of toys and a bicycle from Toys for Tots.
Joaquin was one of 60 children at Washington State Migrant Council's Pasco One Center to receive an early visit from Santa Claus on Monday.
Except this time, Santa gave up on a sleigh and reindeer in favor of a white Toys for Tots truck full of bikes and plastic bags of toys with boy or girl written on them.
As the children received a bag of gifts, their eyes widened. They chorused, "Thank you," and "Gracias," as they hauled the gifts almost as big as themselves into their classrooms.
Noemi Ramos, 4, of Pasco, said, "I'm waiting until I get home," to open her bag of toys.
Toys for Tots' main toy delivery day was Saturday at the Benton County Fairgrounds. There, volunteers distributed toys for 4,970 kids in 865 families, said Bill Stott, coordinator of operations for Toys for Tots by Marine Corps League 337 of Benton and Franklin counties. Each child received four toys.
But smaller events like the delivery at Pasco One center will continue through Dec. 20. Stott said those personalized deliveries are his favorite.
It's the first time the Pasco One center children have been on the list to receive gifts from Toys for Tots, said center director Esther Serrano.
The staff wanted to help the children because all of the families using the center are low-income, Serrano said. It's part of the eligibility requirements for the federal early Head Start program and state Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. The center has children from infants to age 5.
The gifts surprised Jos "Angel" Castaneda, 4, said his mom, Linda Alvarez of Pasco. And it helps many of the families there, who don't have a lot of extra money for Christmas gifts.
Alvarez said she's grateful to the people who gave the toys Jos and the other children received.
Palomino said a bicycle was exactly what her son Joaquin wanted for Christmas. Her other children, Alex, 2, and Hannah, 6 months, also received gifts.
Most of the bicycles were donated by workers at the Hanford vitrification plant, Stott said.
The pink and purple bike topped 4-year-old Genessys Ramirez's list of the best gift from Toys for Tots.
"It's my first one," she explained, confident her father, mother, grandfather and grandmother can figure out how to put it together.
The local Toys for Tots will collect toys and money donations through Dec. 20. Toy drop off sites can be found at www.pasco-wa.toysfortots.org. Money also can be donated at that website.