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Special people see Santa at sea

Santa waves as he passes by the shore during the Special People’s Cruise Sunday. More than 250 people participated in the cruise, which was sponsored by the Bremerton Yacht Club.  - Photo by Charles Melton
Santa waves as he passes by the shore during the Special People’s Cruise Sunday. More than 250 people participated in the cruise, which was sponsored by the Bremerton Yacht Club.
— image credit: Photo by Charles Melton

For skipper Leo Longenecker early December is a special time of year, especially when he embarks on a evening cruise in his yacht, Reality Check, with a special passenger list eager to see Santa.

Longenecker along with other community groups teamed to make the 2004 Special People’s Cruise a success as more than 250 special people cruised the waters around Bremerton Yacht Club Sunday before seeing Santa at the Westside Improvement Club at the end of their journey.

“We expected 175 people but there’s probably been 250,” said Steve Rosedale, commodore for this year’s event. “It’s been the most successful we’ve ever had.”

Not only did the yacht club provide 15 boats for the event, but Kitsap Transit provided two passenger ferries for the event as well, Rosedale said.

“This is one those events where the reward is in the giving itself,” Rosedale said. “Everybody does their part to make this successful.”

Longenecker, who has participated in the event for 15 years, said he looks forward to it each year.

“It’s the satisfaction of seeing the reactions of special people and seeing what the kids get of this,” he said.

In past years, the Reality Check was decorated for the Parade of Boats, but because of currents and tides this year’s event was earlier than expected, he said.

“I’ve got lights and other decorations set up for the event, so it will still feel like Christmas,” Longenecker said.

Kitsap Credit Union employees jumped at the opportunity to participate in this year’s cruise, said Carolyn Young, vice president for branch operations, a five-year cruise veteran.

“We asked for 15 volunteers and it filled up within minutes,” Young said.

Employees look forward to the event because of the way it ties in with the holiday season, she said.

“Everyone of them provides joy and makes you appreciate the season,” she said. “It also puts things into perspective.”

The cruise also provides another way for the credit union to give back to the community, Young said.

Once the special people docked at the yacht club and were transported to the Westside Improvement Club, members of the VFW Post 239 Women’s Auxiliary were ready to feed along with a little help from Santa Claus.

“When some of the people arrived they bypassed the food and went looking for Santa,” said Sandy Pariseau, a volunteer with the women’s auxiliary. “It was priceless.”

Every year the event has gotten larger as it has moved from the VFW hall to Kitsap Community Resources and now to the Westside Improvement Club, Pariseau said.

“It helps a lot of us get in the Christmas spirit,” she said. “We love it and that’s what it’s all about: helping out our community.”

Auxiliary members began making sandwiches at 3 p.m and by 5:30 p.m., they sent out for more peanut butter and jelly to feed the troops.

“Without Kitsap Transit we wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said. “It’s community helping out and without everybody from different areas it couldn’t happen.”

For David R. Smith, who has been Santa Claus at the event for the last 15 years, the event is something he started doing for his mother, who is a member of the auxiliary.

The event also provides an opportunity to renew friendships built over the years, but the most important thing is the look on the faces of the participants when they see Santa, Smith said.

“People don’t forget and the spirit of Santa Claus always lives,” Smith said.

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