The number of youngsters afforded the opportunity to enjoy the prime minister’s annual Christmas treat for children has more than doubled since its inception in 2016.

The event, which started with about 500 children at Vale Royal, the prime minister’s official residence, has increased and now caters to as many as 2,000 youngsters.

This prompted the organisers to relocate the event to the Office of the Prime Minister’s more expansive lawns.

Busloads of children, ranging from ages three to 18, converged at the venue on Sunday (December 15) to be feted.

Wife of the Prime Minister, Juliet Holness, poses for a selfie with Penwood High School student, Tajarie Harrison, after presenting him with a Christmas gift during the prime minister’s annual treat for children.

They were treated to gifts, food, cart rides and a range of other fun activities, including face painting, mechanical bull rides, simulated rock climbing and instant photo sessions.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted that each year, the treat gets bigger as more children, including those from his constituency of West Central St. Andrew, as well as the East Rural St Andrew constituency of his wife, Juliet Holness, are invited to attend.

“The treat is growing primarily because we have taken on the children’s homes that are in proximity and we have brought [children] from constituencies within the Corporate Area as well, and that’s an ever-expanding pool,” he told JIS News.

The prime minister said the highlight of the treat was interactions with children who are in state care who, he noted, are in need of “great attention”, but are children “with great potential”.

“Many are very polite, very responsive, very bright and, in the Christmas season, it does warm my heart to be able to interact with them to give them gifts… [and] they were very happy to receive their gifts,” he said.

Holness singled out one youngster, André, who hails from his constituency, who particularly touched his heart.

André does not have the use of his legs and gets around on his hands. Despite this, Mr Holness noted that the youngster was “very pleasant [and] very happy”, and even showed off his juggling skills after requesting a football for his gift.

“At this season, you remember the less fortunate, you remember those who have struggled all their lives, and it is the time for giving. The treat serves that purpose; it gives back to the less fortunate. It spreads some cheer, some joy, particularly for those who are in the children’s homes and in State care who, sometimes, we don’t see them, we don’t remember them; but they, too, need the cheer. So, generally, the treat was a success,” he said.

For her part, Mrs Holness said the extent to which the event has grown provides more children with a greater opportunity and a larger space to frolic, play and enjoy themselves.

She noted that she specifically selected youngsters from the City of Refuge Children’s Home in her constituency as a special gesture to them, upon their request for gifts.

Children were also drawn from other constituencies across the Corporate Area as well as the Maxfield Park Children’s Home, National Children’s Home, Glenhope Nursery, Reddie’s Place of Safety, and Elsie Beaman Girls’ Home.

Mrs Holness thanked the many sponsors partnering with the Office of the Prime Minister to host the treat, who have more than doubled their contributions since the treat’s inception.

They include Restaurants Associates Limited (Burger King), Restaurants of Jamaica (KFC), Seprod, Nestlé, Rainforest Seafoods, Margaritaville, VIP Attractions, Caribbean Cement Company Limited, GraceKennedy, CB Foods, Consolidated Bakeries Jamaica Ltd. (Purity Bakery), and Continental Baking Company Ltd. (National Bakery).

Among the other partners were Bashco Trading Company Ltd., Lifespan Spring Water, Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), Tastee, Pespi Cola Jamaica, Coldfield Manufacturing Ltd., Caribbean Cream (Kremi Ice cream), JP Tropical Foods, Jamaica Biscuit Company, Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ), Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB) Group, Supreme Ventures limited, Total Jamaica Limited, Cari-Med Ltd., Gateway Co-operative Credit Union, Chukka Foundation, Rose Hall Developments Ltd., Kris an Charles Investments Company Ltd., Wisynco, and Stewart’s Automotive Group.

These are in addition to Total Jamaica Ltd., Confectionary and Snacks Ja. Ltd., Jamaica Teachers’ Association Credit Union, City of Kingston Co-operative Credit Union, Jamaica Police Co-operative Credit Union, EduCom Co-operative Credit Union, and Victoria Mutual Building Society.

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