Christmas came a little early to some very special children in Sampson County, all thanks to the Civitans Club.
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Civitans sponsored a Christmas party for 135 special needs children (kindergarden through fifth grade) from all of the county and city schools.
The fun began at 10 in the morning with a movie at East Park Cinema. The children were treated to popcorn and soda as they saw either “Life of Pi” or “Wreck It Ralph.”
Ray Cannon, owner of East Park Cinema, has been opening the theater for the children since 1989. “When I was younger and we first started doing this, I thought it was a good thing to do but it didn’t mean that much to me. But when I watched the children meet Santa and open their presents, that changed my whole attitude,” attested Cannon. “They were so excited and happy.”
“The Cannons have always been so generous with letting us use the movie theater,” said Joseph Oates, president of the Civitans. “I want to acknowledge them because a lot of people probably don’t know that they do stuff like this.”
After the movie, the Civitans had a hot dog lunch prepared for the children and arranged for a very special guest. Once all the tummies were full, Santa came out to the delight of the youngsters.
Since it is his busiest time of the year, the Civitans helped Santa out with gifts for the children. They paid for the children’s teachers to go to Walmart and purchase a $5 gift for every boy and girl . Once wrapped, the gifts were given to Santa to, in turn, present to the youngsters.
The children were very excited to sit on Santa’s lap and have their picture taken. “See why we bring Santa out at the very end,” said Civitan member Brenda Thompson, watching as the children squirmed in their seats wanting to hurry and meet Santa. “They’re so excited that they probably wouldn’t eat if he came out any earlier.”
This Christmas party is an annual event that the Civitans have been doing for many years. “It’s just good for these kids to have a special party,” said Thompson. “Their situations are a little different than most and this is something special we can do for them.”