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Nearly 300 kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs across Orange County rushed into the Anaheim White House restaurant, their wide eyes taking in the wonder of the holiday decorations and the real snow that lay glistening under the Christmas tree.
“I want them to see something beautiful to inspire them; there is something better out there for them,” Anaheim White House owner Bruno Serato said. “Those kids are allowed to eat at the White House, where former United States presidents eat and a lot of famous people. The biggest VIP will be them today.”
This was the first time the Anaheim White House and Caterina’s Club hosted Snow Day since a fire devastated the restaurant in February 2017.
“This is the best restaurant ever,” exclaimed 9-year-old David from Fountain Valley. “I’ve never been in a fancy restaurant. It looks just like the White House – just like it says on the sign! It feels like my birthday right now! It just blew my mind up, like TNT was in my mouth!”
The menu for the 10th annual Snow Day included a full turkey dinner complete with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and dessert. The servers, in addition to Anaheim White House staff, were National Hockey League players, United States National Volleyball Team members, and volunteers.
“This place is incredible,” said William, 9, of Fountain Valley. He enjoyed the mashed potatoes the best and was impressed by the folded napkins. “I’ve never been to a rich place so this is actually incredible. I love this place.”
Anaheim Fire & Rescue gave plastic fire hats to the kids as they dug into their meals, and Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast visited each table as well.
“The kids are obviously so excited to be here and to see Santa, and Belle, and Frosty, so it’s awesome to be part of that,” Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief of Support Services Mike Malloy said. “For me, these events kick off the holiday season. It kind of reminds you why we’re here and what we do, so it’s exciting to be part of this.”
After they finished their meal, the kids tackled four bounce houses and a snow slide, and mobbed the Anaheim firefighters, asking questions about their jobs. While waiting for the slide the kids received a new jacket to keep them warm during the cold winter months.
“Playing with snow is fun because it’s rare here, it’ll never happen, but it’s just fun,” Yazmina, 8, of Fountain Valley said.
Anaheim Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief of Operations Pat Russell has attended the event for the past five years.
“It’s always amazing every year to see how happy the kids are, how grateful they are for the food, and it’s a great interaction with all the kids,” Russell said. “Everybody’s happy, everybody’s having a good time. It’s just a fun day every year.”
A few kids recognized Anaheim Fire & Rescue Chief Randy Bruegman and asked him how they could become a fire chief. Others told him about the snowball fight they’d had, and showed off their battle wounds.
“I’m always so impressed with the resilience that they show and the attitude,” Bruegman said. He said many of the kids attending Snow Day have gone through programs at the Orange County Family Justice Center, where Bruegman’s wife, Susan, is board president. “Anytime that we have an opportunity to do things like this… experience things like going into the White House, I think it’s good because I think it gives them perspective that there’s more to strive for than what they currently see.”
“Snow Day for the kids obviously is my favorite day of the year,” Serato said. “All my kids, they give me five stars. My best reviews always come from the children.”
Nine-year-old William agrees.
“Every kid in the whole wide world should come here!” he exclaimed.
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