Dominick was just one of dozens of lucky East County residents who got a head start on the holidays last weekend by way of a private audience with Santa at Smith Family Farms in Brentwood.
The morning visit was an outing for special-needs children and their families designed to give them a quiet, one-on-one meeting with the jolly old elf himself.
"The whole point behind this event was to let the kids meet and have their pictures taken with Santa in an environment that is not overwhelming," said Discovery Bay resident and event organizer Lisa McBride. "For these kids, the mall can be way too loud and overwhelming. Here, it's quiet and calm and beautiful. It's been a wonderful morning."
The nonprofit Special Kids Foundation offers support, friendship and resources to special needs children and their families in East County. McBride, whose son has autism, founded the group as a way to embrace the varying and growing needs of the special-needs population.
"We just try to reach out to as many families as we can to let them know there is a group out here that understands," said McBride. "Families with children who have special needs or disabilities sometimes feel isolated, as if they are the only people in the world dealing with the challenges they face. We help them to understand they are not alone."
In addition to the visit with Santa, kids and their families got to stroll through Smith Family Farms and see the animals on site, including turkeys, peacocks and some colorful chickens. There were hay bales to climb on - and in some cases, through - and an array of freshly cut Christmas trees to peruse.
For families like the Adkinses, who brought their 9-year-old twin boys, the morning provided a welcome respite from their busy days.
"This was a great place to come because the boys have already been here for other events, so they were familiar with it," said mom Joanne. "It was a nice break; the boys really enjoyed it."
Shirley Smith, owner of Smith Family Farms, said she was pleased with the turnout and looked forward to future events. "This has been a great day, and we're just thrilled that we can provide a service for them. It's a wonderful thing."
For more information on the Special Kids Foundation, visit www.spkids.org.