Children in the park district party room were attired in photo-op costumes with red velvet dresses, hair bows and holiday sweaters on Saturday morning. They wolfed down the last of their pancakes and sausages, along with scones from Blue Max restaurant, as parks Executive Director Larry Piekarz took the microphone.

“He’s parking his sleigh on the roof, right now!” Piekarz told the excited throng. And then, with a jingle of bells, the man-in-red strode into the room, along with Mrs. Claus.

Santa Claus welcomed 108 local children and their parents at the Park District Headquarters on Saturday morning for the annual Breakfast with Santa.

One by one, children approached the stage, posed for the Gramma-shot and then whispered their Christmas desires to Santa.

Samantha, a second-grader at Betsy Ross, said she confided in Santa about her future career plans as a marine biologist. “He said he likes to go diving in Alaska,” she explained. Samantha came prepared with a 32-item wish list in a notebook, complete with an X on the line for Santa to sign.

“Number 21, a yorkie puppy, pretty please!” was the most coveted gift on the list, she said.

“We’ll see,” was the response Santa gave to little Natalie, future Garfield kindergartener, when asked for “My Little Pony.”

Santa also reportedly said, “That’s pretty pricey,” when asked for a Wii U console by Betsy Ross second-grader Roland. His sister Zoe asked for a Barbie.

Preschooler Jack had to be talked down from requesting a real-sized pony by his father, Tim Gordon. He changed his request to a gumball machine at the last minute. His brother Charlie was planning to ask for a gymnastic ball and his older sister put in a request for an iPad.

Outside in the rain, the flag flew at half-mast to honor 20 elementary school children and six adults, victims of Friday’s school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“It makes you appreciate something like this all the more,” said dad Tim Gordon. There are 20 parents who don’t have this opportunity today.”

Social worker and mom Jamie Connelly said she was grateful.

“I would say the level of gratitude [for my children] is a little bit higher than usual today,” she said.

Park board member Sam Alonzo said the Connecticut events were a reminder of how vigilant the park employees have to be with children.

“We always try to be as safe as we can. We keep an extra eye out for [children].”

When asked what The Park wanted for Christmas, Alonzo said, “the Roos Building.”

The last little boy in line asked Santa to make sure he gave presents to “all the poor kids.”

Santa told him, “Of course. I always do.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...