When St Nicholas visited St Combs

Twas the Saturday before Christmas and all through the ‘Shire,
Flexible Childcare Services buses did hire;
From Inverurie, Stonehaven, Peterhead, Ellon and Banff,
Wearing their sparkles came the children and staff;
Thanks to the kind team at The Tufted Duck,
A party was held, we are blessed with such luck.

This tale of Christmas magic began a few years ago when our management team tried to book a “Breakfast with Santa” event for children from our ASN groups across Aberdeenshire. Disappointingly the organisers of the event were unable to accommodate us leaving the staff trying to plan a special celebration for the children.

We were in luck…word got back to the owners at The Tufted Duck Hotel in St Combs, Fraserburgh, who offered to host a party for children from all of our groups to come together and celebrate the festive season.

The party is now an annual event and this Saturday saw almost 50 children, and the staff teams that work with them, travelling to St Combs. The event runs like clockwork, its so well planned and everyone comes together to make the day extra special for all of the children.

The accessible buses are timetabled to arrive one after the other giving time to get children comfortably settled. All individual needs are met, there’s a quiet room available for children who need a space away from the music and dancing, there’s plenty of room for wheelchairs and the pamiloo from PAMIS brings us a mobile changing places toilet.

The hotel provides a delicious Christmas lunch giving children the choice of what they want to eat and making sure special dietary needs can be accommodated. All of the staff, the bus drivers, and everyone who helps on the day enjoy a meal together with the children.

There are party games, a DJ, singing, dancing and a of course a very special visitor.

The excitement in the room was palpable as everyone sang Jingle Bells louder and louder until they heard the sound of bells and a jolly Ho, Ho, Ho from the man in red.

Every child received a gift from Santa Claus and had their picture taken with him too.

In many ways this was an ordinary Christmas party but in many more ways it was truly extraordinary, here’s why:

  • The party is gifted to us by Lesley Anne and her team at The Tufted Duck Hotel who have everywhere set up and ready for our arrival, they dress as characters to meet the children, they arrange the DJ and do everything in their power to make this a day to remember.
  • Many of the children who attended the party are generally used to being part of a small group with people they know well. This event brings together around 50 children from across the groups in a situation that is potentially stressful for them, yet they all managed incredibly well, meeting and greeting each other, accepting each other without question.
  • The gifts the children received are donated by Donald’s of Peterhead
  • The staff members working with the children know them so well, they gently encourage, support and guide giving the confidence needed to try something new, to relax and to have fun. Staff anticipate children’s needs, share their joys and enable them to have a truly magical experience.

Our Aberdeenshire Services Manager, Maureen Rennie, explains why this event means so much to us: “This event is the highlight of our year. It brings together all our primary groups across Aberdeenshire with some having to travel quite a distance. All the children cope with the travel and the busy day really well with every need individually catered for. The hotel has given us this party for the last four years so we feel extremely lucky. The hard work that staff put into making all these groups work is rewarded by seeing the children’s faces as they dance around and wait for the special visit at the end of the day.”