TEMECULA – The holidays came a few weeks early for 375 of the most disadvantaged children and their families in the Inland Empire.
Hundreds of children from Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula and the surrounding communities were welcomed by special invitation to enjoy a 40,000-square-foot “Polar Express”-themed winter wonderland inside the Pechanga Summit Events Center Monday, Dec. 9.
During Pechanga’s fourth annual “Holiday of Hope” event, they “stopped” at nine different “stations” each conducted by Pechanga volunteer “engineers.” The special guests met and took photos with Santa, watched holiday movies by a fire, enjoyed a traditional holiday meal, rode a train, listened to Christmas singers, decorated holiday cookies and more. Each child and their family were identified by the Temecula, Lake Elsinore and Murrieta school districts as in-need individuals. According to a January 2019 report, there are 2,811 homeless children and adults in Riverside County, up from the 2018 count of 2,316.
“Pechanga is putting on this event for the fourth year because we understand how important holiday memories are for children as they grow up and how special they can be, and we just want to be a part of that and be able to share with our community,” Jared Munoa, president of the Pechanga Development Corporation, said. “The Temecula Valley … it’s our home. So to be able to give back to Temecula as a community, the surrounding cities and to be able to partner with nonprofits to help these children is something that’s indescribable.”
Each of the 375 children attending the Holiday of Hope event got to choose an age-appropriate gift. Their families were also given a gift basket containing a fleece blanket, hot cocoa, popcorn, family game and a grocery gift card. Pechanga also provided shuttle service to some of the families who live in Murrieta so they could be sure to get to the Holiday of Hope event.
“For my boys, they definitely feel special to receive these gifts from Pechanga. I feel like right now, I can’t do this for them so I feel blessed that there is an organization out there that can help my family – to provide toys and resources,” Oda York-Lloyd of Lake Elsinore and mother of two.
Submitted by Pechanga Resort Casino.