Canton police officer's Be A Better Me Foundation recognizes kids from Canton, Plain and North Canton school districts

CANTON  Jaedyn Waters, 8, and his brother Jaemeir Waters, 5, were first in line to see Santa on Saturday morning at the TD's Tailgate Grill.

"Santa's the best guy in the universe," Jaedyn said, minutes before he was led into his meeting with the jolly old elf at "That Christmas Bar" inside the restaurant at 2234 Tuscarawas St. W.

One glimpse of Santa and the boys ran up to him, Jaedyn stretching open his arms wide and hugging Santa.

The boys were among 65 area schoolchildren who are "Lamar's Stars," local students recognized by the Be A Better Me Foundation, an organization for which veteran Canton Police Officer LaMar Sharpe serves as president. He mentors youth and recognizes their achievements through the nonprofit.

"We help kids who are struggling with behavioral and other issues, and we want to help kids do better and empower the kids that are also doing well because they kind of get forgotten," Sharpe said.

Saturday morning's Holiday Breakfast with the kids, who come from the Canton City, Perry Local and North Canton City school districts, included a meal, a visit with Santa and such gifts as new book bags and recognition Certificates of Excellence. Scott and Kim Shapiro, who own TD's Tailgate Grill, hosted the event with the foundation.

The Waiters children, who attend Clearmount Elementary School in North Canton, were excited to see Santa, said their mother, Azeria Waiters.

"I'm going to ask him for Transformers," Jaemeir Waiters said.

His older brother planned to ask for a train and a Nintendo DS, which is a handheld game console.

After their visit with Santa, they were given their book bags and gifts, then were led back to the main dining room for breakfast.

Santa told them they had done well and asked them to keep up the good work. The boys grinned and nodded as they walked back to the dining room, carrying their gifts.

Next to see Santa were Blake Staples, 8, and Grayson Bebout, 2, of North Canton. Their parents, Ashley Bebout and Blake Staples Sr., said Blake is going to ask Santa for Legos.

"Grayson likes to say he wants a computer, and I ask him, 'Where did you learn that?'" his mother said, smiling.

The children carried their gifts out to the dining room and took seats in a booth near the Waiters children as more children began to arrive, chattering happily as they entered the restaurant.

"That's why I love this job," said Santa, who said he has been doing his job "for a long time."

"When you see the wonder in their eyes, it's magical."

Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or lori.steineck@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @lsteineckREP