Whiting Lions Club secretary Olga Papp (left) checks on Caitie Rohrman and Joey Golubic as they visit Santa at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Whiting. | Anthony D. Alonzo~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 25, 2013 6:08AM
‘It was really special, really sweet,” Whiting mom Andrea Harbin said. “This feels great. The kids already got to see Santa and got some gifts and do lots of activities and be with lots of other kids.”
Whiting Lions Club members and area families who were guests of the group’s recent 29th annual Whiting-Robertsdale Special Children’s Christmas Party kept a local tradition alive with a special focus on spreading holiday cheer.
At the spacious Knights of Columbus hall in Whiting Dec. 2, dozens of partygoers gathered for food, a gift exchange, balloon art, face painting and a visit from Santa Claus that was highly anticipated by the younger guests and those young at heart.
The Harbin family of Whiting — Andrea, her husband Mark, their son Beau and daughter Calla — lined up for a meeting with jolly old St. Nick. Andrea talked to Calla before she approached Santa. The 4-year-old special needs youngster proudly displayed the princess doll she was given earlier.
“With the gifts that they gave, you can tell they did a good job of shopping for each one of them,” said Andrea Harbin, with 6-year-old Beau standing by wearing his Spiderman balloon-art hat. “Beau kept going back for more balloons. They both loved it, they really did.”
Earlier many guests participated in a cookie decorating activity where sweet toppings were drizzled over baked goods. According to Lions officers, this year’s party was moved to the K of C Council 1696 hall near the city’s downtown because of demand for additional space.
Whiting Lions president Efren Gomez said the Christmas party was a great opportunity for the organization to continue with its focus on service and connect special needs individuals and their families with supportive residents.
“All the fundraisers we have during the year go toward buying the gifts,” Gomez said. “When Santa arrived and the kids were done eating . . . everybody started to cheer and applaud. And the band played a little number for him to walk in to. It was good.”
Lions secretary Olga Papp had contacted individuals and businesses in the weeks leading up to the festivities. Donations and support from the group assured that all kids — first those with disabilities or illnesses and then their siblings — would have a gift of their liking.