Santa made a special visit to Waipawa last week to help spread some festive cheer among local children - and to help raise money for a good cause at the same time.
Meredith and Mark Drake, owners of Kingfisher Gifts in Waipawa, arranged for Santa to spend Thursday afternoon at their festively decorated store, where children patiently waited for a turn to sit on his knee and tell him what they wanted for Christmas, as part of an annual fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House in Auckland.
"We had drinks and nibbles throughout, loads of raffles - including a signed Black Caps shirt and a signed Magpies jersey - as well as many other raffles kindly donated by local businesses and people," said Meredith Drake.
Along with the raffle proceeds, the couple donated 20 per cent of all sales from the store on the day to Ronald McDonald House near Auckland's Starship children's hospital - two places the family know all too well.
The couple's son, Carter, and his twin sister Gabby, now both 9, were born nearly three months premature at 29 weeks. Carter was born weighing just 770gm while Gabby was only marginally bigger at 1.1kg.
While Gabby has no ongoing health problems apart from being a bit small for her age, Carter has been in and out of hospital ever since, undergoing numerous surgeries for stomach problems, and has to be tube-fed for 19 hours a day.
"Carter and I are actually going up to Starship this week after the fundraiser for a feeding tube change," said Meredith.
"Ronald McDonald House is important to us, as we have spent so much time there with Carter while at Starship hospital.
"They have been such a help during times of a lot of stress - from giving us a chance to have a place to stay when we can have a break from the hospital ward, to Mark, Gabby and [youngest daughter] Polly being able to stay while visiting, through to providing meals and a place to do washing."
Meredith expected Thursday's fundraiser to raise more than $2500 for Ronald McDonald House.
"We are also very grateful to have the support of people living in fantastic Central Hawke's Bay, where the people are always so kind and caring and give us many words of support each and every day," she said.