The Willcox invites the community to join it in bringing toys to local children who might otherwise have none for Christmas when it hosts the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots celebration on Wednesday.

The festive afternoon event, which will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m., will feature the North Pole's most famous residents having their photos taken with area children followed by a lobby full of carolers at the grand piano. Santa and Mrs. Claus will sit in their bright red sleigh in front of a roaring fire in the lobby of the 113-year-old Aiken landmark, listening to the dreams of Aiken area children.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive at The Willcox shortly before 4 p.m., aboard one of two large hay wagons filled with high-spirited carolers from the Equine Support Council of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce and the Hatchaway Hounds Mock Hunt, headed by Samantha Charles.

The carolers will board their wagons, supplied by Sweetwater Tree Farm, at the parking area on South Boundary below the Aiken County Historical Museum around 2:30 p.m. From there they will travel along Park Avenue, Laurens Street and Newberry Street with a stop at Trinity Lutheran, singing Christmas favorites for shoppers, before finishing at The Willcox with several more carols out front.

Aiken photographer Todd Lista of Lista Studio of Photography will be on hand at The Willcox to take your family's photo with the Claus family. With his photo printer, Lista can hand each family their child's photo on the spot. Lista, like several local people and businesses, is donating his services for the Toys for Tots campaign.

Guests will gather around the grand piano in The Willcox lobby for more caroling from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The featured singer will be longtime New York cabaret singer Kendall Standish. Song sheets will be available for everyone, as well.

There is no charge for meeting the Claus family, but a donation of an unwrapped toy or a monetary gift to Toys for Tots will be appreciated.

Toys for Tots is a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. They collect unwrapped toys during October, November and December and distribute them as Christmas gifts to needy children in the local community.

For more information on the Aiken Toys for Tots campaign, call Lane Parker at 644-8300 or email