The president of Rockbrook Camera in Omaha isn't sure what year his business started to take pictures of children with Santa.
But some of the kids who still participate with their families have been coming long enough that they're now young adults, said Chuck Fortina, who owns the store with brothers Dave and Joe.
“It's really neat to see the same kids grow up,” he said.
For many families and their friends, the three-day event has become a tradition. They come together for sittings and go out for dinner afterward, Fortina said.
For Rockbrook, it has become a tradition of giving.
In early December, workers set up a quiet studio in a classroom at the store's Legacy location, ask families to donate at least $10 and capture those Santa moments for scrapbooks all over town.
The business donates every dollar raised to The World-Herald's Goodfellows charity, which provides one-time emergency aid and holiday meal certificates to needy people in the community.
Fortina said the photos started at least 25 years ago at the original location near 120th Street and West Center Road, not for charity but as a way for people to get a better Santa photo than they could at the mall. Rockbrook photographers used portrait lighting in a professional studio.
Eventually, the effort grew into a major charitable endeavor. Fortina said they shoot between 40 to 60 Santa encounters in each three-hour session.
This year, people can get a photo with Santa Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Legacy location, 2909 S. 169th Plaza, Suite 100.
Fortina said they like Goodfellows because it's broad-based.
“It's not just focused on a food program,” he said, adding that he also likes the way it's administered because every penny goes to people in need.
Last year, the company made $1,700 for Goodfellows.
Two women — Tina Marie Crnic and Fortina's sister, Carla Fortina — are the Santa photographers. Chuck Fortina said they have a knack for getting kids to smile and for calming petrified kids.
The program has had only three Santas: The first was a store employee who's still there; the second was “a little old guy who was just phenomenal,” Fortina said; and the current Santa is a friend of the original.
Since it's only on three nights, it gets fairly hectic. Fortina says people show up right at 4 p.m. thinking that will help, but it might actually be better to come right before it ends.
Regardless of the lines and the occasional chaos, people love it. So does Rockbrook Camera.
“It's really become a big thing for us,” Fortina said. “It's fun.”