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Gift boxes, pizza, skating part of Jaycees' Empty Stocking Fund party
Event at Skate Country distributed gifts to about 225 kids
Yahir Gandarilla smiles as he receives his gift box at Monday's Gainesville Jaycees Empty Stocking Fund party at Skate Country in Gainesville. - photo by Clark Leonard

The Christmas spirit was alive and well Monday night at Skate County in Gainesville.

Music played as children, their parents and siblings ate pizza and skated. About 225 kids received a box with two outfits and a toy as part of the Gainesville Jaycees’ Empty Stocking Fund gift party.

Santa Claus was even on hand to take pictures at the Thompson Bridge Road skate rink.

The program, which started in 1955, focused this year on providing middle school students a box of helpful items. Chris McNeal, the event’s organizer, said the Jaycees appreciate all the businesses and individuals in the community who helped make the gifts possible for so many children.

“It takes a lot of support in the community,” McNeal said.

Counselors at Hall County and Gainesville middle schools helped the Jaycees by nominating students who could benefit from such a gift. Gainesville Jaycees sold raffle tickets and relied on other donations to be able to furnish the gifts, which were purchased at Wal-Mart on Saturday.

Children could bring up to five family members to Monday’s event, where Papa John’s pizza was served.

Yahir Gandarilla, 12, came to the event for the first time Monday and said the skating and food were the highlights.

And 12-year-old Kaely Jalbert enjoyed the party because of the skating and seeing friends.

“It’s a good thing for kids,” Jalbert said.

It was Lucinda Hester’s second time at the event. Her son, 10-year-old Howard Spencer, said skating was his favorite part of the night. Hester said the evening allowed families to have fun and meet different people.

To contribute to the Empty Stocking Fund or get more information, go to, call 770-532-7714 or email