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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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WAVELAND, Miss. -– It was hot, sunny and two months before Christmas, but Santa suited up and showed up anyway to bring the kids of hurricane-hit Hancock County a little early holiday cheer.

And don’t forget the presents. Hundreds of children who lost all their toys when Katrina struck on Aug. 29 lined up with their families in a giant beachside tent to visit the man in the red suit and receive some gifts.

The event at Buccaneer State Park was put on by relief organizations, whIch also threw a barbecue. The Morrell Foundation was the key organizer while Adventist Community Team Services handled the food, according to Gary Patterson of ACTS.

While some kids eagerly awaited their shot at Santa’s lap, others came away with stuffed animals, hula-hoops and kickballs.

It was hard to estimate the number of children and their relatives who showed up, but Patterson, from Centralia, Mo., with a group of 10 high-school volunteers in tow, said, “We’ve cooked up 1,000 dogs, 800 burgers and we’re getting ready to throw some chicken on the grill.” That won’t run out because “we’ve got 10 pallets.”

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This was a GREAT idea for the children. They are so innocent during this devastation. They can't fully comprehend what has happened to their lives. A child's role in life is to "play" and these toys will help the children get on with their lives. I have grandchildren in Biloxi so I have a soft spot for the children along the coast. Thanks to the ones who helped with this project.

This WAS a great idea, and may God bless the good people that made it happen. But the children are not innocent anymore. They are scarred for life, just like those of us who went through Camille as children.

This was a great idea in helping children during such a difficult time!!! This will hopefully help their healing process. Everyone has a long road ahead of them.

We need more people like you, May God bless you and keep you safe always. I pray that you will live to be 105 years of age and still be young and full of life because the children need you.

Children need angels like you! May God bless you and all of the kids always!

I was there and helped the Morrell foundation in Waveland. I was in the Sacramento group! It was such a good experience for me and it felt so good to help people!!!!! I am so glad that you guys at the foundation thought of this! You are GREAT people!

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