FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- When C.J. O'Keefe had his picture taken with Santa Claus on Saturday, it was a reunion of sorts.

After sitting with Santa, 7-year-old C.J. recalled with a child's imagination how he traveled to the North Pole five years ago by car and airplane.

"I saw Santa Claus and the elves," said the second-grader at Southgate Elementary School in Glen Burnie.

C.J. and his family were among the more than 275 people to enjoy an afternoon with Santa and several surprise guests at the Enlisted Spouses Club's annual Children's Holiday Party.

The event was held at the Youth Services building on Ernie Pyle Street.

"We just love throwing this party every year," said Rachel Jamison, president of ESC.

The party has been a tradition for more than a decade. Proceeds from the ESC Thrift Shop cover the costs, including the free food and toys that were raffled throughout the four-hour event.

The Fort Meade USO and the Johns Hopkins Medicine U.S. Family Health Plan also helped cover the cost of toys.

"Seeing the kids' faces light up -- we love giving back to the community," Jamison said.

The party's "Candyland" theme, taken from the popular children's board game, included a snow princess -- Stephanie Chervenkov, Miss Maryland Teen USA 2012.

"I love it. Everyone is so happy and cheerful," said Chervenkov, 17, who wore a pink, floor-length tulle skirt with a pink sequined top. "The kids are really excited."

Chervenkov and Nana Meriwether, 26, Miss Maryland USA 2012, greeted children and had their picture taken with them by members of the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera).

The Soldiers also took photos of children posing with Santa Claus. All of the photos taken by Combat Camera will be posted on the ESC website in a few weeks.

Meriwether, whose father is a doctor and has worked on military installations, said she was honored to visit Fort Meade.

"It's always great to support the military," she said. "I'm really excited to be here."

Children colored and crafted gingerbread men and gingerbread hearts out of colored paper, glitter and plastic flowers. Some youngsters also made lollipops out of round paper plates and ice-pop sticks.

Many children wrote letters to Santa Claus, while others wrote letters to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several parents waited patiently while their children had hearts and stars painted on their cheeks by volunteers.

"It's been fun," said Senior Airman Dru Jorgensen of the 94th Intelligence Squadron who came to the event with his wife, Amy, and their two daughters, Nia, 2, and Dalia, 8 months.

Jorgensen said Nia had a "blast" at the bean bag toss.

Before the event was over, children stood in line for balloon animals made by Bubbles the Clown.

Santa Claus, however, was eager to share a holiday message before returning to the North Pole to prepare for Christmas.

"Support your fellow Soldiers," he said. "Peace on earth and goodwill to men."

Page last updated Mon December 12th, 2011 at 13:28