One Windermere family got the surprise of a lifetime when they went to Palm Beach to visit friends and ended up hanging out with the president of the United States.
Katie Leccese and her daughters, Brooke and Jamie, were spending a few days with Leccese's best friend, hoping to spend a little time on the beach. The weather was too cold for that, so one day they decided to hop in the car and take a driving tour of the area.
Leccese suggested to her friend, Kathy Platt, that they go by Mar-a-Lago, purchased in 1985 by Trump, restored and reopened a decade later as an exclusive private club in Palm Beach.
Platt wanted to show it to her from across the water but the area was blocked. As they sat at a traffic light, the outgoing Platt rolled down her window and started talking to a group of Trump supporters who were standing near the street. The small group said President Donald Trump's motorcade was expected to drive by and asked Leccese and Platt if they and their children wanted to join them and hold some signs.
“I said, 'Cool, let's do it!'” Leccese said. “What a cool experience no matter your political affiliation.”
After the two families stood for a few minutes waving their borrowed signs, two white Chevrolet Tahoes drove by the group. Donald Trump Jr., who was with his children, stopped to ask how they were doing.
“About 10 minutes later, you heard the sirens going,” Leccese said. “Two dark SUVs rolled up, and President Trump rolled down the windows, waved and gave a thumbs up.”
Everyone was excited to have seen the country's leader, Leccese said, and they expected that to be the end of the excitement.
But about 10 minutes later, two black Tahoes came from the opposite direction and made a U-turn, “just like you see in the movies,” she said.
Secret Service men stepped out and walked up to a group of supporters standing on the Southern Boulevard bridge, selecting certain people. They also walked up to Leccese and Platt, directed them to empty their pockets and let their bags be checked and asked them to step inside another vehicle.
Sixteen people in all were invited to meet the president.
“They took us to Mar-a-Lago,” Leccese said. “It was unbelievable.”
The vehicle was escorted to a tent, where more members of the Secret Service conducted a complete vehicle check.
Once they were cleared, they were taken by the pool to meet Trump and pose for photos.
“He greeted his guests and spoke very candidly and was relaxed, and it felt like you were with your father-in-law or grandfather. He was very comfortable. He was warm.”
After a brief tour inside the resort to see the Christmas tree and outside to view the helicopter, Trump invited his guests to a snack buffet.
“We indulged in cookies and Trump water,” Leccese said.
Before leaving Mar-a-Lago, the adults were presented a resort magazine and a history of the property and the children received Secret Service pins.
Leccese said her daughters were in shock over the entire experience. Brooke, a student at Bridgewater Middle School, understood how exclusive and special it was; Jamie, a Windermere Elementary student, was excited and giggly.
On Monday, the girls were sharing their experience with classmates. One of them said her friends didn't believe her, so that evening, she and her mother were creating a photo album with captions under each photo for her to take to school on Tuesday.
The family has received newspaper clippings of the event from as far away as England and has heard they were featured in a newspaper in Dubai.
“Meeting the president was incredible,” Leccese said. “If it hadn’t been cold, we would have been at the beach. Had it not been freezing, we wouldn’t have met the president.”