Westerville's Snowflake Castle has been an area tradition for more than 34 years.

Its run has been made possible by the 450 volunteers who donate their time toward helping make Christmas special for children.

A fundraiser for the Westerville Senior Association, the Snowflake Castle program was started by a retired school teacher who wanted children to have something fun to do during the holidays, said Lyn Kiger, program supervisor for the Snowflake Castle.

Held at the Everal Barn and Homestead, 60 N. Cleveland Ave., children can make, paint and wrap wooden toys with an "elf" and visit Mr. and Mrs. Claus at their house, where they can get their picture taken. The park is turned into a winter wonderland, complete with lights and snow inside of the "workshop" where the toys are made.

This year's program began Dec. 1, resumed Dec. 3 and continues through Saturday, Dec. 8. Organizers charge $10 for the activities and the photograph. Reservations roll in quickly, and this year's tickets have sold out.

Kiger said there are 30 volunteers for all 17 shifts for the event, equating to about 450 volunteers, with some repeating in the rotation.

Ten to 12 of volunteers are in the toy-building sessions where "elves" help children build, paint and wrap a toy. Kiger said volunteers are able to help around 30 children per half an hour.

"It's a lot of kids and volunteers having fun together and enjoying the holiday season," she said.

Organizers hold "elf-training" sessions to help volunteers with their roles shortly before the program begins.

The carved wood used to make the toys, as well as the handmade crafts for sale downstairs, is donated by senior volunteers.

Katie Stolte-Carroll, a second-year volunteer, said the experience of working with the children who attend is incredibly rewarding.

"Seeing the joy in their eyes when they get to use the power tools and see the snow," she said, is the best part of being a volunteer.

Stolte-Carroll said the event is a reminder of the true value of the Christmas season.

"It restores your faith in humanity doing this," she said.

For those who are interested in volunteering, contact Lyn Kiger at the Westerville Senior Center.

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