Santa Opens His Grotto at Toad Hall to Excited Children

Jennifer, Emma, Olivia and Isabella were very excited to be the first children to see Father Christmas at Toad Hall on Saturday morning when it opened for the first time.

The grotto is run by Henley Lions and is open every weekend up to Christmas (see dates and times below).  Anna from the First Day Children’s Charity officially opened the grotto with Lyn Burgess from Toad Hall who designed and built the beautiful grotto which features a woodland snowy scene with lots of animals.  Proceeds from the grotto will be split between First Day who provide essential items for children who are affected by poverty for their early years and at school and The Footsteps Centre which specialises in the intensive rehabilitation of children and young adults with cerebral palsy, genetic disorders, epilepsy, other neurological and neuromotor disorders and undiagnosed conditions.

Jennifer, aged 7 was going to ask Father Christmas for a remote controlled helicopter and Emma a Nintendogs DS game.  Jennifer’s favourite part of the grotto was the big polar bears. Olivia had brought Father Christmas a picture she had drawn.  Her Mum Victoria said, “We love coming to the grotto, I think we’ve been every year since Olivia was 1, (she’s 4 now).  Olivia and Isabella were delighted with their presents of face paints and a tiara.

The grotto this year has been moved to the area at the back where the Christmas decorations are Lyn said, “It’s a bit bigger this year and new for this year are the waterfall at the entrance, Pegasus and the carriage and two huskies.  It’s taken about the same time to build (around 6 weeks).”

Martin Sheldrake, Manager at Toad Hall said, “I think it’s really brilliant to have the grotto here. It’s a really festive thing to do and ideal for the children.  It’s great working with the Lions and they raised over £3,000 last year.  The money dropped into the pools also raises between £500-£1000 for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.”

John Moore from Henley Lions said, “We saw many children visiting this weekend again that came last year and visitors who came from Wiltshire, South Reading, High Wycombe etc. solely to see Santa at Toad Hall.  The message has been taken far and wide that we are possibly the best in the area and also good value for money.  Also, the fact that all profits are donated to children’s charities is, I think possibly a major factor in parents decisions to support us.”

“The enthusiasm of Henley Lions members for this event is amazing and we all get so much pleasure from the interaction with the children and their families.  We learn a lot about the children and just how many have difficulties of one sort or another; many are excited to talk about their aspirations, achievements and even in one case, about being bullied.  Such a learning curve.”

“We are looking forward to the next three weekends, welcoming many more to the grotto and being able to make a sizeable donation to First Days and Footsteps Foundation.  These organisations do an incredible job considering the financial conditions under which they have to work.”

The cost to visit Santa is just £7 and the children can choose an unwrapped present from the chest (a selection of great toys  that normally retail between £6-£7).

The grotto will be open every weekend from now until Christmas (Saturdays 10.00-5.00pm and Sundays 10.30-4.00pm).