Santa Claus wasn’t the only celebrity who turned out for a charity benefit for the Emergency Care Help Organization (ECHO) Saturday, Dec. 12, at Trader Tots Resale in Riverview. Queen Elsa of Frozen fame was also on hand to greet youngsters at the store on Balm Riverview Road.
Store manager Tami Kimes, busied herself at the counter while a steady stream of youngsters filed through the doors, drawn by the petting farm in the parking lot and holiday music. Some tots eyed Santa a little warily while others enjoyed free face and hand paintings before greeting the big man in red.
Trader Tots is a children’s resale boutique catering to children from newborn to sizes 14-16 and also buys and consigns items for sale. The store offers store credit for items customers bring in.
Batman toys, Barbie dolls, dirt bikes and tablets were just a few of the items youngsters asked Santa to deliver on Christmas Day.
“I made them pronounce it loud and clear so mommy and daddy could hear what they were saying,” Santa said. “I also told them to stay good and Santa would do his best.”
For those little ones intimidated by the big man with the white beard, Hannah Sigmon, who donned an Elsa costume for the day, was there to help.
“When kids are a little scared of Santa, I am a princess so they take a picture with the princess first and then Santa,” Sigmon said. “I let them tell me what they want for Christmas, and then we tell him together.”
The event also featured several raffles with prizes, including a free massage, oil change and private session with a professional photographer. All proceeds went to ECHO.
A multipurpose self-help organization staffed almost entirely by volunteers, ECHO is a food pantry, clothing assistance source as well as provider of social services to help clients find jobs, earn high school diplomas and apply for benefits.
“ECHO is just an amazing organization,” Kimes said. “There is just not enough we can do for them. I know some people personally who have used ECHO’s services, and they are a good, decent organization. I’ve also met a few of the people who work there and run the group and they are just the best. I love the way they help families in need.”
Founded in 1987, ECHO serves communities from Gibsonton to Brandon and has helped more than 140,000 area residents — more than half of them children — with food and clothing.
“We tried to find a worthwhile organization that was local, that was not a national organization, so we could give back to the community. We would rather keep the proceeds in the local area,” said Trader Tots’ owner, Howard Angeloni.
To donate, volunteer or inquire about the services at ECHO, visit the group’s website, www.echofl.org, office at 507 N. Parsons Ave. in Brandon or call 813-685-0935.
Visit Trader Tots Resale on Facebook, the store at 11938 Balm Riverview Road, or call 813-422-4078.