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Five children pose for a photo Saturday at The Chocolate Shoppe in Utica during Operation Claus. The children are (from left) Kylie Rennels of Spring Valley, Tyfany Venuto of Peru, Patience Songer of Oglesby, Natalie Farley of Utica and Ivy Smith of La Salle. NewsTribune photo/Jeff Dankert
Chocolate treats in Utica were among the luxuries given to five children Saturday by Operation Claus.
The children and their families first met at Grand Bear Lodge in Utica, then took a limousine ride to The Chocolate Shoppe, where for nearly an hour they created sweets including a massive Rice Krispie treat heart glazed with chocolate. Owner Andie Groff was happy to host the event.
“She heard what we did and wanted to be part of it,” said Ed Godwin of La Salle, organizer of the annual motorcycle riders’ toy parade and toy drive that usually results in a shopping spree for several families in need.
“We do these little things for birthday parties and we thought this would be awesome for the kids,” Groff said.
With multiple chocolate choices and smiling children, “awesome” was the common buzz word.
“Thank you so much. This was really awesome,” said Shallee Rennels, mother of Kylie Rennels of Spring Valley.
“It’s neat, isn’t it?” Godwin said. “This wouldn’t be possible without the help of the community.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus were there. As the chocolate treats were packaged for the children, Patience Songer of Oglesby said to Godwin: “You’re probably going to eat all my chocolate.” Godwin replied: “Patience, you had better be good. Santa is watching.”
Justin and Carrie Mrowicki of Spring Valley volunteered to help.
“Just seeing the kids’ faces, knowing they’re getting a Christmas they ordinarily wouldn’t have,” she said.
This is the sixth year for the event. After chocolate, the children boarded the Starved Rock Shuttle and Tour limousine and rode to Wal-Mart, Peru for toy shopping. Then it was back to the lodge by 12:30 p.m. for a pizza party in the Enchanted Forest and an overnight stay for the children and their families.
Martha McLaughlin and her two children, Taylor and Erin, helped out the operation. “It’s all Ed (Godwin),” McLaughlin said. “He’s amazing.”
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