The Riverhead Moose Lodge invited Santa and his helpers over for a pancake breakfast at the lodge yesterday morning.

Each year the Moose Lodge gives local children the chance to dine with Father Christmas and take photos with him, but this year’s Breakfast with Santa came with a special catch: bring an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots and enjoy a free breakfast.

“This is the first year where we’re teaching the kids about giving instead of getting,” said Maureen Passatino, chairperson of the event.

For the first time in “forever,” according to Passatino, the lodge is partnering with Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves program that provides Christmas presents for needy children in local communities throughout the country.

More than 80 adults and children turned out for the event to fill the tables with toys for donation. Money raised from ticket purchases will go to Moose charities, as a well as a local charity to be determined later.

After enjoying some fresh pancakes made by kitchen volunteers who had been at the griddle since seven that morning, children lined up to hand their wrapped presents over to Sgt. Antonio Narein of the Marines.

“Thank you for your service,” one little boy shyly said to the uniformed sergeant.

“Some of the kids are more interested in shaking his hand than seeing Santa,” Passantino said. “It’s a great thing to see.”

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Courtney Blasl
Courtney is a photographer, videographer, web designer and writer. She is a lifelong Riverhead resident.