Operation Hope gives all of Park City the chance to play Santa | ParkRecord.com

Operation Hope gives all of Park City the chance to play Santa

Families signed up for Operation Hope will get to shop for themselves at St. Mary's Catholic Church from Dec. 18-19.

Planning for Christmas is stressful enough, and the annual strain of providing a good holiday season is only compounded if a family finds itself in a situation where it has to make sacrifices to celebrate.

The 10th annual Operation Hope, a Christmas toy, book and clothing drive put on by the Christian Center of Park City, is trying to take that weight off Wasatch Back parents' shoulders. Christian Center Director of Operations Pete Stoughton said the organization hopes to collect about 2,500 toys, 3,000 books, and 2,500 articles of clothing by the Dec. 8 deadline.

The donated gifts are made available at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Dec. 18 and 19, where parents who might be under an increased economic burden for the holiday season can make sure their children have something to brag about when they hit the slopes or go back to school.

"It's pretty awesome to come back to school after the winter break and tell your friends, 'Hey, this is what I got," Stoughton said.

About 1,200 children are signed up to receive gifts from the drive, which is available to both Summit and Wasatch county residents. Each child will come away with two of each item category (toys, clothing and books), pajamas and a Bible. The majority of the registrations came from kids who qualify for free and reduced lunches at school.

Kids participating in winter sports with the Youth Sports Alliance will also come away with snow gear they can take up the mountain.

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Stoughton said coming face-to-face with the families Operation Hope benefits reminds him of why he serves the community.

"I was signing up a family and they were so ecstatic. They had fallen upon some hard times and then just were extremely grateful," he said. "They were excited about, 'You know what? I'm looking forward to next year when we can help get gifts for other kids.'"

The Christian Center is counting on everyday donations of gifts to supply their store, but they're getting some help from Main Street as well.

To make 1,200 Christmases happen, there also need to be 1,200 Santas. That's where the Santa Pub Crawl and nightclub Downstairs come in.

Downstairs co-owner Seth Hill said participants in the pub crawl bring in a toy as their cover charge to Downstairs. All other cover charges and donated from the night are donated to the Christian Center, as well, to be used to buy additional toys.

"We live in such an amazing community here … it's always very important for us to be able to give back to the community, at this time of year especially," Hill said.

The Christian Center of Park City is accepting donations of toys, books and clothing for Operation Hope from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 1283 Deer Valley Dr. Donations are due by Dec. 8.