An Elcan-King kindergartener gets a gift she’s been wanting for eight months

Published 8:12 pm Friday, December 12, 2014


Soldier and father Charleston Orange tears up while holding his daughter, Jayla, for the first time in eight months after returning from Afghanistan. — Powell Cobb


The day was winding down in Mary William’s Kindergarten class at Elcan-King Elementary School on Thursday. The kids had just been read a story about the gingerbread man and were reviewing the letters of the alphabet via song.

Unexpectedly, the door opened with a unique visitor. It was Santa Claus, and he had a special surprise for student Jayla Orange.

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Jayla, 5, has been without her father, Charleston, since April. He was deployed by the U.S. Army as an engineer to Afghanistan, and Jayla has missed him every second he’s been gone.

“She talked about it every day,” Jayla’s mother, Kanesha said. “She told me she doesn’t like the Army because it keeps him away for so long.”

At the top of Jayla’s Christmas list was seeing her father before Dec. 25.

Santa had come to her class to deliver on her wish. He stepped to the side as Charleston walked through the door of the classroom and embraced his daughter, tears welling in his eyes.

“For her to be in my arms right now is just the greatest feeling in the world,” Charleston said. “I’m just so happy to be reunited with my family, my wife, my daughter and my great in-laws.”

Family members, friends and school faculty filled the room to watch Jayla receive her biggest Christmas wish.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of welcoming home a soldier who has been off serving our country,” Elcan-King principal Jennifer Wilkinson said.

Jayla was too shy to say how excited she was that her dad was home in time for the holidays, but their embrace said enough.

“(I’m glad) now that he’s back home and safe and he made it back without being hurt or anything,” Kanesha said. “It makes me feel happy.”

Charleston wanted to thank the City of Bainbridge and Bainbridge Public Safety for helping organize the surprise for his daughter.

“It’s just a blessing to be back,” Charleston said.