Santa photo fundraiser marks a decade of giving

Michael Tortorich
Lori Charlet poses with her neighbor, Trenton, who donated his Air Jordan shoes and volunteered to assist with the annual Santa Claus photo fundraiser.

A viral social media post has captured the true meaning of Christmas for many in Ascension Parish.

The story stems from a television reporter mistakenly going to the wrong house while working on a story about Lori Charlet, who along with her family and friends, has been hosting a Santa Claus photo fundraising event annually the past 10 years. 

The money raised, as well as donations, goes toward collecting toys to be distributed by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Gonzales Police Department.

Charlet, Gonzales Middle School’s principal, recently welcomed journalist Kennedi Walker from WVLA/WGMB in Baton Rouge to her house in Donaldsonville, where the fundraiser has been held every year. 

“I have held off on this post because I get too emotional each time I try to write what’s on my heart,” her Facebook post began.

The annual toy fundraiser collected a total of $3,220 this year. Shown from left are: Alayna Charlet, Ray Robins, Jeremy McCrory, Cody Krumholt, Lori Charlet, Scarlett Boatman, Natalie Dugas, and Barbara Musco.

Charlet explained how she met her new neighbor, a boy named Trenton, after the reporter initially went to his house by mistake. Eventually, she waved to him from across the street.

“After talking to him for a minute, I knew this young man was someone so special,” Charlet wrote.

She invited him to the event, so he could have his photo taken with Santa, who has been portrayed by Cody Hesser over the years.

By Saturday night, the front porch was decorated and Christmas music filled the air. As the volunteers were preparing to welcome guests, Trenton walked across the street with a box in his hands.

“These are my Jordans that I have only worn a couple of times because they don’t fit. I want you to give them to someone special,” Charlet recalled him saying.

As tears flowed, she gave him a hug and promised to give the shoes to someone special.

Trenton worked with the group throughout the event, helping by serving treats and making sure Charlet had everything she needed, including loading toys and supplies to take to Gonzales.

“This, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas, and I know that angels are here with us on Earth,” Charlet concluded in the post.

The volunteers collected $3,220 in donations this year. Additionally, they will be donating four bicycles to Lowery Elementary School.

“We are so excited! We also collected about 30 to 40 toys that night. People are so good!” Charlet said.