Years ago, Haim David started the Wish Upon a Car charity with little more than a good idea and a limousine.
Now celebrating its seventh year of service, Wish Upon a Car has grown tremendously — going from its original 12 children to a staggering 80 children this year.
Formed to bring joy during the holidays to underserved children in the area and provide them with a Christmas — David, charity founder and 654LIMO owner, said that his motivation for starting the charity was the community.
"Helping my local surroundings has always been a part of me," said David. "I decided I wanted to see who I was helping, I wanted to look in the eye of the receiver."
On Tuesday, children from 10 local organizations gathered in Fort Walton Beach to register for their day of fun with Wish Upon a Car.
Taking part in the days activities were eight children from each organization — Youth Village, Children in Crisis, Bruner Middle School, United for a Good Cause, Horizons, Sharing & Caring, St. Mary Catholic School, Shelter House, Boys & Girls Club and Striving for Perfection Ministry.
After registration and a light breakfast, the children were whisked away — chauffeured in one of the multiple stretch limousines provided by 654LIMO.
The first two stops for the kids were aqua-themed, with the group heading to the Gulfarium for a dolphin show, then to Fudpuckers for an alligator show and lunch.
With full bellies and happy hearts, the kids hopped back in the limos and traveled to Fat Daddy Arcade and Sunsation Beachwear.
After playing a few rounds of arcade games and browsing the shop for a bit, the group was en route to Destin Commons where the chaperones had some exciting holiday activities planned.
Kay Phelan, president of Phelan & Lowry, Ltd., a public relations and marketing strategies company in Destin told The Log that she's been part of the Wish Upon a Car event in previous years.
She adds that it's hard to explain the excitement and pure joy of the children who are involved with the event, "You kind of have to see it to believe it."
Phelan was among the crowd at Destin Commons when Santa Claus and two of his elves arrived.
Ditching his sleigh for something more stylish, Claus also arrived via limo. With his rosy-red cheeks glowing, Claus posed for pictures and fielded questions from the large group of children.
"What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?" asked one curious child. "Chocolate chip, of course," answered Claus with a hearty, bowl-full-of-jelly belly laugh.
Once Kris Kringle left in a haze of sleigh bells and candy canes, treats were passed out to all of the children, including a gift card to Destin Commons that the children could spend however they wished.
Gift cards in hand, many of the children ran immediately to Build-A-Bear — where a daily special was being offered to the kids from the Wish Upon a Car organization.
Among those who pranced off to Build-A-Bear were five-year-old Angel and seven-year-old Nikki.
Talking amongst themselves, the girls said they were having "the best day," with the rest of the group.
"I love every person here," said Angel, who was making a stuffed pink Hello Kitty doll with a handful of other kids from the program.
After shopping at Destin Commons, the group went to Baytowne Wharf where they went ice skating, drank hot chocolate, snacked on cookies and listened to music by DJ Vladi at Hammer Heads.
With a few limos full of smiling children, the group drove back to Fort Walton Beach, ending the seventh annual Wish Upon a Car on a high-note.
If you want to learn more about the Wish Upon a Car event please visit wishuponacar.org.