By Morgan Bryce
The busyness of the coming Christmas season did not deter Santa Claus and his elves from attending the 21st Annual Special Children’s Christmas Program last Friday at Opelika’s National Guard Armory.
Open to area children and adults with special needs, the event featured a morning full of fun, dancing and the Christmas spirit.
Entertainment was provided by cheerleaders from Opelika and Beauregard High schools. Other special visitors included Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon of the Alabama National Guard, Opelika City Clerk Robert Shuman, the Chick-fil-A cows, Opelika Police Department mascot ‘McGruff’, Opelika Fire Department mascot ‘Sparky’ and crowd favorites Santa and Mrs. Claus, who posed for pictures and provided gifts for each attendee.
Founded by Harold Watts in 1997, fellow retirees of United Steel Workers Local 753 Uniroyal/BF Goodrich Union have continued the tradition, which epitomizes the spirit of Christmas, according to event volunteer Paschal Prickett.
“Until you’re here in this room, and see the children’s faces and how happy it makes them … you just have to see it to believe it. Some of them can’t respond at all, others just want to touch you, touch your hand, because of how much it means to them,” Prickett said.
The following is a list of businesses and individuals who donated to and supported this year’s event: East Alabama Medical Center, Walmart Distribution Center, Goody’s of Alexander City, Glynn Smith Chevrolet, Buick and GMC, Four Seasons Federal Credit Union, Auburn Eye Physician, The Orthopedic Clinic, Cameragraphic of Auburn, Lambert Transportation/Storage, Chick-fil-A Tiger Town, Steadman Shealy, Mrs. Ruth Erb, American Income Life Insurance Company, Lowe’s of Opelika, Raymond M. Bolt, Adams Pharmacy and Home Care Inc., Dr. Robert C. and Barbara Patton, HomeMed LLC, Winn-Dixie of Opelika, Party City, Jack’s of Opelika, Krystal’s of Valley, The Alabama Army National Guard, Southern Union State Community College’s Opelika campus, The Opelika Rotary Club, City of Opelika’s Public Works Department, Mayor Gary Fuller’s office and Eddie Cosper.