Pricella Soulemon, 6, of Rock Island ripped the wrapping from the present she received Saturday from Santa Claus.
The first-grader at Rock Island Primary Academy got a craft set to make bracelets and necklaces.
Pricella was one of 100 Quad-City girls ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade who got an early Christmas thanks to the outreach program of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.
The Girl Scouts partnered with Ganson’s Neighborhood Bakery and Café and Church of Peace, both in Rock Island, to pull off the event.
This was Pricella’s first year with the Girl Scouts. When asked what she liked about it, her comment was simple: “Everything.”
Keyana Kirkland, one of the group leaders for the Girl Scout program and a biology pre-med major at Augustana College, said its goals include teaching the girls to empower themselves and to appreciate diversity in society.
“We want to teach them the importance of being friendly, the benefits of public service, the ugliness of bullying and gossiping,” Kirkland said.
“Today’s children are the leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “We want to teach them the tools of being successful, the tools of leadership and train them to do things the right way.”
Saturday’s event included pizza at Church of Peace for all the girls. Then the party moved to Ganson’s, where the girls got to do face painting, decorate a stocking for themselves and decorate cookies.
They also got a surprise visit from Santa Claus, who presented each child with a gift.
Angel Ralston, 7, a student at Frances Willard Elementary School in Rock Island, stared at all the presents under the Christmas tree at Ganson’s. “That’s a lot of presents,” she said.
Neither she nor any of the other girls realized that Santa was going to hand out those gifts to them.
Chris and Bob Thompson, the owners of Ganson’s, said this is their second year hosting the event.
Customers donate presents or money for the presents, Chris Thompson said. All of the presents are designated by age so each child gets an appropriate present.
“One man came in to eat and it was his first visit and he donated $100,” Chris Thompson said.
And it is important that the children get something, Bob Thompson said.
“For a lot of these kids, this may be the only gift they get for Christmas,” he said.
One family also won a Christmas dinner basket, courtesy of Ganson’s customers.
Destiny Hearn, 17, a student at Rock Island High School who plans to go into early childhood education, said the children are learning a variety of life skills that will help serve them well in the future, including the value of hard work and study.
And the program also is teaching her a thing or two.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “This job is a great opportunity to gain some good experience and to better understand the needs of the kids.”