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West Ranch students raise more than $5,000 to play Santa

Group fills wish lists of more than 40 kids

Posted: December 24, 2013 1:18 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2013 1:18 p.m.

West Ranch High School students Ryan Pederson, right, and sister Jackie carry Christmas gifts to the U.S. Postal Service center in Castaic on Monday. The students lead a club that raised about $5,000 for Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Signal photo by Jim Holt.

SANTA CLARITA - More than 40 under-privileged local kids woke up this morning to find Santa brought them exactly what they asked for — thanks to more than three dozen students at West Ranch High School who call themselves Santa’s Special Forces.

The students collected letters from the United States Postal Service that were addressed to Santa Claus, then went about raising enough money to buy the requested Christmas gifts, wrap them up and mail them in time for Christmas.

“Typically, each kid would get a $100 gift,” said Ryan Pederson, a West Ranch senior who heads Santa’s Special Forces.

The gifts are likely familiar items to Santa Clarita Valley parents who looked at their own kids’ Christmas lists; guitars, bikes, dolls, tablets, Xbox games and other tech toys.

Dressed in colorful elf-like costumes, Pederson and his sister, Jackie — a junior at West Ranch — and senior Emily Vanacore carried a small mountain of Christmas gifts Monday to the postal facility in Castaic for mailing.

“We’re definitely an improvement from what we had last year,” Pederson said. Santa’s Special Forces last year consisted of just himself, his sister and Vanacore.

The ranks of Special Forces swelled after the trio told their fellow students about the program via West Ranch TV. Now they number more than 40.

Through several fundraising efforts at the school, the club raised more than $5,000 to purchase Christmas gifts.

The club purchased more than 200 presents — including a significant number of gift cards — addressed to kids living in U.S. Postal District 25, which takes in the Santa Clarita Valley and Palmdale.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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