More than 400 elementary school children and scores of volunteers and parents totalling nearly 500 will attend the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral annual Christmas Holiday Party for Lee County's special needs students at the Cape Coral Yacht Club next Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral has sponsored the event for over over 33 years, and it is nothing but "pure joy" said organizers.
And it doesn't stop there. To ring in the new year, they will also take the party to students who cannot make this event due to travel and physical restrictions at the Buckingham Exceptional Students School to ring in the new year with them.
Volunteers from Kiwanis youth organizations along with the Aktion Club of Special Pops are joining club volunteers for the day, who will also get their own special joy for helping.
Christmas as well as Hanukkah will be celebrated.
The club invited over 400 children from 24 schools to attend the event. Each of the schools will be receiving $1,000 grants to support their ESE (Exceptional Student Education Department) programs. Through the department, the district offers a free and appropriate public education in compliance with the federally mandated Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). A continuum of services and programs is available to meet the individual needs of students requiring special education, ages 3 through 21.
"For a lot of the kids coming to event, it may be their first holiday event, due in part by family situations and issues such as wheelchair and other special transportation," said Tina Pegler, vice president of the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club. "When they come into this building the look on their faces is pure joy, with some having never seen such beautiful decorations, trimmings and more."
The party is also a bonding experience between students who get to share the special day.
A joyful experience will also be had by volunteers, including the the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club's Service Club programs will assist with the event, including the Cape Coral High and Oasis High School Key Clubs, Builders Club of Providence Christian School and the Aktion Club of Special Pops, she said.
Sarah Sansone is the Special Population Supervisor at the Freida B. Smith Special Populations Center, also the
Aktion Club of Special Pops Advisor. The Aktion Club is made up of adults with various disabilities.
The Aktion Club has only been in existence for the last three years and the members have attended the party each year.
"We are a service club that is a part of the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral, our mission is to assist our community in any way we can," Sansone said. Several members of her group will be volunteering that day. "The best part is 'the greeting' where they meet the children just getting off their school buses arriving at the event. They greet the children and offer them a santa hat or antlers, all provided by Kiwanis Club."
It is a way those adults get to help spread holiday spirit, she said.
"We help set up and serve lunch with Key Club and we also get up on stage and sing some christmas carols," she said. "They really enjoy giving back to the community, and enjoy the children too."
There won't be a lack of entertainment - or special guests.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will attend, along with Mayor John Sullivan, and Kiwanis past Lt. Gov. Bruce Boyd.
Music will be played by Dan Tudor, and there will be a performance by dance team the Calendar Girls, Ventriloquist Brenda Stelzer and "Oz" the magician.
Of the Calendar Girls, Pegler said, "I'm a member, and we are an amazing group of women over 50 who do numerous charity events." Their charity is for guide dogs for the blind through the Southeastern Guide Dog School.
"We do over 140 events each year, and our program coordinator, Katherine Shortlidge, says this is her favorite event."
Lunch and gifts will be provided to the students including educational fun stuffings and a dreidel for Hanukkah.
For more information on the Christmas Holiday Party, email Pegle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 936-8072 x 107.
Pegle is the Director for Learning for Life, a character educational program through the Boy Scouts of America.
"What Learning for Life and what the Kiwanis do is very similar - the same type of mission, vertically integrated."
The Kiwanis group is looking for more service-minded individuals and business professionals who would like to make a direct impact on the community through volunteering.
Meetings are held every Wednesday. For more information on the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club, email president Susan Rolfe at email@example.com. The Cape Coral Kiwanis Club website is mycapecoralkiwanis.org.