The social commentators are saying that the public have become jaded and are now very educated about determining the sincerity of everyone around them …
That it’s a matter of
“Don’t tell us what you believe …. Show us.”
We believe that the Special Children’s Christmas Parties make a real difference in people’s lives.
Not just the lives of the invited children and their families,
but also in the lives of those who come to volunteer
and those who come to see what they have supported financially.
To provide a unique and valuable social and networking experience for children with special needs and their families in a fun environment while giving full consideration to the safety of all involved.
The United Nations commissioned a Western Australian promotions company to devise a project that would benefit special needs children as part of the celebrations for the International Year of the Child in 1979. The result was “The Special Children’s Christmas Party”.
The aim was to give the most marginalised of children who would otherwise have missed the Christmas activities, the chance to gather and share the magic of the Festive Season with a community larger than their circle of family and carers.
More than thirty years later, the goal remains the same: to gather the children who are ill and disabled and to help them forget their troubles for a few hours; to help their families and carers see they are not alone; to allow the children to just be kids enjoying a magical time of year; to foster a belief in happiness and better times in the children, their families and the volunteers and sponsors who make it possible.
The first Townsville Special Children’s Christmas Party was held in 1991. Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton followed in 1993. Over the years, more than 110,000 invitations have been issued to children in these areas. We have watched children grow to adults that now volunteer their time at the event they used to attend. We have shared the grief with families who have lost a child or children to the challenges they had so bravely battled. Some of these parents also come to volunteer as ‘pay back’ for the joy the Party brought their children.
Our promise is not to provide a cure for whatever ails the children but to give them the opportunity to simply have fun. They will be making memories that will have to last some families a lifetime.
Our aim is to make as many dreams come true as we can in three or four hours. To that end, we provide food (including some special treats), drinks, rides, face painters and static displays.
There is a stage show that just doesn’t stop with a full program of entertainers including a band, cast members from “Neighbours” and other performers such as magicians, jugglers, fire breathers, balloon artists, dance troupes and singers. Over the years, we have welcomed artists such as multiple Golden Guitar Award winner Adam Brand, James Reyne, The Wiggles, John Williamson, Graeme Connors, The Sunny Cowgirls and many others. These very talented people have treated us to many sweet sounds but the most joyous sound of all on the day is simply that of a child’s laughter.
Santa Claus arrives usually one hour after the official start time of the Party. We try and make his arrival as breathtaking as possible but venue restrictions and considerations with Public Liability are now limiting our options. However we still manage to come up with helicopters, sports cars and emergency vehicles. After addressing the crowd from the stage, Santa takes up his position in the Toy Room or nearby. Individual children are given the opportunity to meet Santa, thank him for their gifts and even have their photo taken as visits to shopping centre Santa’s are just not an option for many of these kids. Santa also has a little treat for each child – usually some lollies or a Christmas themed novelty item.
The children come into the Toy Room according to the group number they have received at the entrance gate. The disabled children come first so that the volunteers can serve each child individually and choose gifts appropriate for the child’s abilities. This is done in consultation with the accompanying parent or carer. All other children come into the Toy Room in age groups and receive a sack of toys preselected as suitable for their age and gender. There is the opportunity for parents to exchange the gifts if we have missed a disability at the gate.
After visiting the Toy Room, some families choose to leave if there are health concerns for a sick or disabled child while others opt to stay and enjoy the festivities.
WE’VE COME A LONG WAY
As a society, we’ve come a long way in the manner in which we deal with the disabled members of our community. It’s not even 50 years since a disabled family member would be secreted in a back room of the family home or, for the affluent few, placed in permanent institutional care.
Thankfully, we are now far more enlightened and understand the enormous gift these children are to a community. They help us to be accepting, understanding, generous and grateful for the children we know who are spared the challenges sick and disabled children and their families face.
We have come to acknowledge and admire the quiet determination and clenched-teeth endurance these families exhibit everyday. We now see disabled children main-streamed in our schools, valued members of groups such as Scouts and out and about in society leading as ‘normal’ a life as possible with their families and friends.
What could be more normal than for kids to get together at Christmas time to party?
We join with another twelve Parties staged across Australia and New Zealand to extend invitations to almost 30,000 children with special needs and their families to attend these events every year. As a group, we are indebted to the business communities in each of these 19 areas who enable us to bring so much joy into the lives of children facing unimaginable challenges. We are grateful and humbled every day. Thank you.