There was something for everyone at the North Suburban Dallas Chapter of Jack and Jill of America’s 26th annual Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 9, including arts and crafts tables, pictures with Santa, a hot cocoa stop – everything needed to bring families together during the holidays to create memories that will last.
There was even a station that forms snow, and that’s one of Seleste Sully’s favorites, as a former chemistry teacher and current North Suburban Dallas Chapter president of Jack and Jill, a nationwide African American organization founded by a group of mothers in Philadelphia in 1938. The nonprofit believes in the power to make a difference, first by shaping children into capable, committed leaders. Jack and Jill starts young – at the age of two – and it continues until adulthood.
Seleste is serving her fourth and final year as chapter president, on top of her full-time job as assistant principal at Wakeland High School in Frisco. For her, Jack and Jill is a legacy. Her husband grew up in it, and her two sons, now a junior in college and a junior in high school, joined at ages six and three. But she still has her own reasons for becoming a member: She did it for her kids, for how it would one day impact their lives.
Being a part of Jack and Jill gave her kids a glimpse of who they could be apart from her and her husband, she said, and a sense of pride for who they are collectively.
“We make sure we have a representation of our children,” Seleste said, and that includes Santa Claus.
Every year at Breakfast with Santa, there is an African American Santa Claus, and this year’s Santa was James Anthony Wortham. “It brings a really good comfort level for kids and everyone to see someone who looks like you, who understands your culture and small nuances,” James said. It was his first time as Santa, yet he already knows he’d do it all over again.
He knew he wanted to be a happy, receptive Santa, someone who could share the spirit of Christmas with everyone he came across. “You never realize how many kids really enjoy being around Santa Claus,” he said. He’d never considered playing the role before, but when a member of Jack and Jill approached him unexpectedly, it felt right, effortless even. He didn’t even need to invest in a fake beard.
This year’s Breakfast with Santa at Hilton Granite Park lit up with laughter, bursts of energy – and love. The Christmas red glowed on the walls, the holiday music echoing off them, merrily.
Everywhere you looked, there was something that caught your gaze – a book fair, an auction, an arts and crafts table where kids could make “reindeer food” to sprinkle in their yard. The candy bar, sugar cookie bar, and ornament-making station were places to let go and get creative. It turned out to be just as whimsical and memorable as Seleste had envisioned. Guests were even treated to a speaker from Congress.
“Everything we do is purposeful,” Seleste said. “It’s for our kids, so we have to always make sure we’re going above and beyond for them.” Their activities aim to bring in an element of philanthropy or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education – to never stop learning or teaching. And that’s what Seleste does, despite not being a classroom teacher anymore.
“I get to teach character. I get to teach kids how to treat other people,” she said, and that’s what drives Jack and Jill and every event they host.
“We want to make sure everybody there knows there is still hope, that we can rise above negativity,” Seleste said. Both Seleste and James’s hope is for that spirit of the holidays – coming together and caring for others – to last all year long.
Jack and Jill of America strives to live out that Christmas spirit in the actions they take every day, like helping out with Minnie’s Food Pantry throughout the year.
Time seems to slow down during this season, enough for everyone to grasp the moment and really make the most of each one. But it also reminds Seleste of the power each person holds within to make a difference, not just now during Christmas, but forever.
She reads aloud the glittery gold letters illuminating her wall – Maya Angelou’s words, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
More photos from Breakfast with Santa:North Suburban Dallas Chapter of Jack ad Jill >