KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – Special needs children from around the area got a visit from Santa Claus Thursday in the 50th annual Christmas With Special Friends.
The Downtown Dayton Lion’s Club began the event in 1969 and has continued the tradition each season.
The event works with the families of children who may be sight challenged or multi-handicapped. The children are encouraged to list three things they would like to receive for the holiday in letters they write to Santa Claus.
Members intercept the letters on their way to the North Pole and work with Meijer to purchase one of the items from the children’s list. The members then host a special lunch at the Kettering Presidential Banquet Center, held Thursday, for the families to gather.
The children are all members of the Dayton Public School system and were organized in collaboration with school officials.
To see photos from the event, view the gallery below:
After lunch, Santa arrives to greet the children and present them with the gifts they have selected.
The Lion’s Club created the event to have “meaning and longevity.” Officials said they were proud of how long the program has run and how much joy it brings to the children each year.
“If we can do anything to lighten their load for four or five hours,” said event chairman Todd Trautwein, “and you’ll see the joy in their faces, it makes you want to participate.”
Officials emphasized that some of these children come from low-income homes and that, for some, the present given to them at the event may be the only one they receive this Christmas.
“It’s meant a lot to me and my daughter to be able to get this kind of help,” said Denise, a parent of one of the children. “To be here and meet other families and other children and to see this generosity means so much.”
“It’s adding meaning to our lives,” said Trautwein, “Nothing is better than helping another individual, especially children. We are gonna serve as long as we can.”
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