Special Thanks to Peggy Suazo Romero, Robert Romero and Olivia Romero for providing the beautiful photos and music to share along with this heartwarming Christmas story. I hope this story inspires all who read it and warms your heart with great memories of past Christmas’s in New Mexico. – Angel Espinoza – NM Universo
Twenty-six years ago, my late husband Tony Suazo had a dream. His dream was that we have a big Christmas Party for children who were in need. He then asked me how I felt about giving up our vacations and using that money to buy toys and goodies for the children. I responded, “Tony, that is a beautiful dream” and that he had my full support.
A few months later, instead of planning our vacation, we started planning the children’s Christmas party. While planning the event, he now felt that every child going through the line waiting to see Santa would get a toy. He said, “Every child is a child of God”. We both decided that every toy would be wrapped so that every child would be excited to see what Santa gave them. This idea brought smiles to our faces.
Since we both came from musical families, he decided to have music to go along with this event to make it more special for the children and their families. Tony was related to well-known artists Los Latinos who were his first cousins and to Jaci Velasquez, who is his second cousin. My mother played the guitar and sang for five years but never continued. My nephew Ray Casias who was a DJ at KDCE Radio, and a well-known musician played many instruments with a beautiful voice, was very gifted and passed on three month ago.
He invited Angel Espinoza, my nephew Ray Casias, and Pulita Martinez. They were happy to donate their time and God given talent to help us out and make it a beautiful children’s Christmas party. The inaugural event was held at the Lucero Center in Espanola, NM and was our first event that was a big success in our community and truly encompassed Tony’s dream.
Tony had formed a non-profit organization that he named “Sportsmen and Concerned Citizens of New Mexico.” He fought for hunters’ and ranchers’ rights and he decided to have this organization sponsor the children’s events. Tony wanted a name for the children’s Christmas Party, so he named it “Put A Smile on A Child’s Face.” Tony wanted to see the smiles on the children’s faces when they would see Santa and receive their toy and bag of goodies. The Board of Directors at the National Guard Armory heard about this event and wanted Tony to hold the fundraisers and the big event in December at the Armory. Tony was honored and decided to take up their offer.
As planning began for the second children’s party, we started getting calls from different artists who wanted to donate their time and be part of the popular “Put A Smile on A Child’s Face.” From then on this event became well known. Children and their families came as Denver, CO, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, and Chama, NM and surrounding areas. Tony, the Board of Directors, and myself were blessed to have met hundreds of artists who donated their time to help us put smiles on children’s faces and make our events possible. Without these musicians this would not have been possible.
A month later, Tony was excited about building a stage for the performers. Tony shut down his business for a month and started building the stage. Within a month the stage was finished. He called my nephew Ray Casias and Gilbert “Gelvis” Rivera to come and see what they thought. They both got on the stage and could not believe what Tony had built! It was perfect. He wanted to make sure that the children felt special when they were on the stage performing for a live audience, some for their very first time.
The second year we were blessed with over a thousand children attending the event and we were honored to have Ernestine Romero “La Jovencita” perform along with other children like Ricky Garcia, Isaiah Martinez, Derek Velasquez, Candace Vargas, Joel Vargas, Jr. and many more young children, starting as young as six and a half years old.
Tony shared another dream with me and that was to showcase children and their God given talent of music. We started talking to children who loved to sing, play a guitar or piano, and invited them to be part of our events. The children were so excited to be given the opportunity to sing in front of an audience and perform on the stage. These children later came out with their own-recorded CD’s. We also gave exposure for artists who had just released a new CD at our concerts. We became a big family with all the musicians that we met and donated their time to make this dream bigger.
We put together two concerts fundraisers a year and the money raised was targeted towards buying toys and goodies for the children’s Christmas party.
The “Put A Smile on A Child’s Face” became a well-known event in the community, surrounding areas, and the State Of New Mexico. Tony was recognized in Washington for this annual event and was named the unofficial Santa Clause by the Santa Fe Ne Mexican newspaper on the “Ten Who Made a Difference”.
On September 27, 2003, Tony passed away from a tragic accident while hunting. We had just started planning on the children’s party, which was two and a half months away. While going through my grieving, I knew I had no choice but to put the event together because I could not let the children down since they were looking forward to their party, I knew that this is what Tony wanted me to do and also to keep our dream alive.
Over two thousand people and children showed up on the day of the Christmas party at the National Guard Armory. We all came together as a big family with Santa distributing toys to a long line of children. A beautiful concert with many artists singing and children dancing along with a food concession and door prizes. I truly felt Tony’s presence.
I have continued Tony’s dream with the help of all the beautiful musicians, the Board of Directors at Santa Crud De La Canada (Holy Cross Church) and all the volunteers.
I did not have a party for two years due to a fracture on my foot, but I promised the children I would bring it back and I did!
A special thank you from my heart to Willie and Olivia Romero for always being there for the children and myself since the beginning. To my beautiful angel Ernestine Romero and my nephew Ray Casias for being there since the beginning of Tony’s dream, donating their precious time and music for many years.
Thank you, my beautiful friend Olivia, for all your help with the videos, CD’s and fliers. Thank you Glenda Martinez and Adrianna Martinez who have MC’d the events and helped wrap gifts.
To the beautiful Angel Espinoza, thank you from my heart for featuring me on NM Universo. It is truly a huge honor and for donating your time to make our events possible for the children all these years with your music and beautiful voice.
2020 would have been our 24th year and were looking forward to another successful “Put A Smile on A Child’s Face” Christmas party. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this wonderful event could not take place. God willing in 2021, the Board of Directors at Holy Cross and myself plan to have a bigger and special party for the children of all ages who hold a special place in my heart. Hugs and Kisses to everyone. May God keep you all safe and healthy. Merry Christmas and God Bless.
Peggy Suazo Romero