Five hundred disadvantaged children were treated to a Christmas experience many of them will remember for a long time.

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(WBIR - Pigeon Forge) The holiday season is now in full swing, but in midst of all that hustle and bustle a group of entertainers helped make special memories for some East Tennessee children.

Nearly 500 children, more than 200 of them orphans, filled the Smoky Mountain Opry's auditorium and were treated to a free variety show that featured good Christmas music and dancing.

Johnny Hodges plays lead trumpet in the show. While on stage, Hodges was able to get a good view of the children's faces during the show.

Hodges said, "There's something about watching the wonderment and the awe in a kid's face when they see something for the first time they've never seen. I love that."

Hodges knows first-hand the challenges facing the kids because his story looks like so many of theirs.

"My mother went into the hospital, gave birth, she was very, very young, and left. And my parents adopted me."

Hodges is now a professional trumpeter based in New York and is part of the show band at Big Apple Circus in New York City. He says one of his biggest joys as an entertainer is doing special shows for children, particularly disadvantaged ones.

Saturday, before heading into the Smoky Mountain Opry the children filled a giant white tent in the business's parking lot and were able to make Christmas memories of their own. They decorated cookies, stuffed stockings, watched classic Christmas movies, and of course took pictures with Santa. And each child left with gifts for themselves and their families.

David Fee, CEO and President of Fee / Hedrick Family Entertainment Group, said, "Every kid got toys, which of course you need if you're a kid. But more than that if you're the family they got coats, they got food, they got turkey, they got ham."

This was the 7th annual Operation Snowflake, put on by The LORD's Child. More than 200 volunteers worked to make sure every child got the Christmas they deserve.

David May, CEO of The LORD's Child, said, "You drive down the parkway in Sevierville and you see all of the shows and theaters, but in any direction there is abject poverty."

Hodges hopes the children not only had a good time, but also left with some encouragement.

"If they understand my story and realize I'm on stage playing, I hope they understand nothing's impossible. If they set their sights, they can do it. It's entirely up to them," Hodges said.

The Fee / Hedrick Family Entertainment Group presented The LORD's Child with a $25,000 donation so the organization can continue helping thousands of disadvantaged children.

For information on The LORD's Child, visit http://thelordschild.com

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