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Breakfast with Santa event in Harford County benefits families fighting pediatric cancer

Eleanor Barry met Santa Claus and gleefully poured a full bowl of glitter into a bag of “reindeer treats” for Rudolph and company on Sunday.

But when the 2-year-old spotted the Grinch lurking at the “Breakfast with Santa” event at the Falling Branch Brewery’s farm in Harford County, she was having none of it.

“If you want to know what a good hug feels like,” said Bill Spangler, who had his granddaughter in his arms, “wait till the Grinch goes by.”

More than 300 people bought tickets, a sellout for the breakfast buffet Sunday which benefited Gold in Fight, a foundation that serves families fighting pediatric cancer. The full amount of ticket sales and donations was not tallied by Sunday evening.

It was the event’s inaugural year at Falling Branch’s 200-year-old barn but the third fundraiser this month Crossroads Bistro, a Sparrows Point restaurant and food truck business, has put on for the charity, said Crossroads co-owner Nicole Youse.

The restaurant is also donating holiday meals to 15 families in the Baltimore area, she said.

“I wanted to provide an awesome Christmas experience to families that they’ll remember and also provide funding to families fighting pediatric cancer,” Youse said.

Gold in Fight pays bills and provides other support for roughly 40 families struggling under the financial weight of cancer treatments, said founder and president Mikel Griffith, a veteran who lives in Baltimore and works as director of logistics for the Defense Information School at Fort Meade.

Griffith, who said he began the charity after bringing meals to children’s hospital rooms as a volunteer, praised Youse’s generosity.

“I don’t know how to begin to thank her for what she’s done,” he said. “You can’t even imagine what a full dinner does for these folks. I could tell you stories all day long about the hardship some of these families are going through.”

The breakfast buffet did not include beer. But parents enjoyed Falling Branch’s Daybreak Farmhouse Ale and the six other drafts available for purchase from the bar.

Kim Galbreath, the brewery’s owner (and dishwasher, she insists), made her way through the packed barn, talking with attendees and clearing dirty plates and empty beer glasses from tables.

She said she was touched when Youse approached her with the idea of hosting Santa breakfasts for charity at the brewery on the weekend before Christmas. They hosted one Saturday morning, too.

“It makes my heart melt because it makes me feel like the world’s going to be OK,” Galbreath said. “Young people are doing great things to help other young people.”

Kyle Murphy, 4, of Bel Air, apprehensively petted the Galbreaths’ 15-year-old dairy cow, Emma, from the safety of the arms of his grandfather, Bob Fitzpatrick, who was visiting from Wisconsin.

The cow drew a small crowd when Allen Galbreath brought her out in a Santa hat, although she shook it off at first.

Not everyone feared the Grinch.

Lucy O’Brien, 3, and Taylor Wink, 12, cousins who live in Kingsville, were among those who were willing to get within the length of a 39 and a half foot pole of the Christmas thief for a photo. Santa, too, playfully hugged him for all to see — surely a redemptive gesture in the eyes of some skeptical children.

Under the green mask? Youse’s mother, Michele McKee, a nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

“I made one little girl cry,” McKee admitted. “You just have to back up, wave from afar. Some will walk up and hug you.”

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