Close to 200 children from across Clark County celebrated an early Christmas on Monday during an annual party that is nearing a century of serving local families.
Springfield’s Rotary Club hosted its annual Christmas Party at Wittenberg University’s HPER Center, providing games, activities and a chance to meet Santa for 190 area children with disabilities. The event is now in its 95th year, said Bonita Heeg, executive director of Springfield Rotary’s Services to People with Disabilities Program.
“This is a real heritage for us to serve on the shoulders of past Rotarians and serve our community like they did,” Heeg said of the annual party.
The 190 children who attended the event from area schools made the largest crowd the organization has ever served, she said.
Along with a chance to meet Santa, the students who crowded into the facility had a chance to play with therapy animals, dance to Christmas music and received an early Christmas gift during their visit with Santa.
The Christmas party is one of two major events hosted annually, said Bill Brougher, Rotary president and general manager at Valco Industries. The organization has also hosted a food truck rally in the summer in recent years. But the Rotarians and their families have a long history with the Christmas party, which offers a day of fun and activities for some children who might not get that chance otherwise, Brougher said.
Rotarians, their families and other volunteers all chip in to make sure each child goes home with a gift each year, he said.
“It’s easy for the Rotarians to be benevolent with their checkbooks,” Brougher said. “This brings a lot more joy to the disabled children in our community.”
Mickey Edwards, a Rotarian and food and beverage director at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield, has been involved in the party for eight years.
“The best part is the joy of seeing their faces when they get their present from Santa,” Edwards said of the children.