Volunteers host party for children with special needs
By Alison James
Christmas came early for children and adults throughout the area with special needs, who were given a Christmas party just for them, an event in its 18th year in Lee County.
Hosted by the retirees of the Uniroyal/Goodrich tire plant as begun by Harold Watts in 1997, the party welcomes children with special needs from Lee, Russell and Chambers counties schools and the Opelika, Auburn and Phenix City city schools, as well as the Valley Haven adults in Valley.
The event embraced new sponsors this year in addition to Steadman Shealy, who has sponsored the event since the closing of Uniroyal. This year’s sponsors included: EAMC, Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Lambert Transfer and Storage Company, Four Seasons Federal Credit Union, Goody’s Inc., Internal Medicine, Dr. Robert Patten, Dr. Raymond Bolt, Steve Holley at State Farm, Ruth Erb, Chick-Fil-A, Winn Dixie, Party City, Lowes, Opelika Rotary Club, Glynn Smith Chevrolet and American Legion Post 17.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” is the most commonly heard comment, event organizers say. Each attendee receives special gifts at the party – from M&M’s and fruit to coloring books and watches, as well as goodies like sticker badges from the local police department. The dance floor is a hit with “Mr. DJ Extreme,” Jerry Welcher, providing the tunes. Cheerleaders and dance teams from local schools mix and mingle with those in attendance and help get the party hopping. Special guests include Sparky the fire dog, McGruff the police dog, Aubie and Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Also in attendance were area dignitaries, including Mayor Gary Fuller; Police Chief John McEachern; Sheriffs Jay Jones, Sid Lockhart and Heath Taylor; Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, adjutant general of the state of Alabama; Col. Brian Barrontine; Lt. Col. Shannon Hancock; and Lt. Col. Rick Pelham.