Joy in abundance at Kiwanis Christmas party

Joy in abundance at Kiwanis Christmas party

Annual Kiwanis holiday party in Cape Coral is a special time for 400 students with special needs.

10:55 PM, Dec. 13, 2011  |
Emmanuel Saint-Luc,8, a student at Patriot Elementary gets loved by Yo-Yo the puppet alien being held by Brenda Stelzer, right, during the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club annual holiday party at the Cape Coral Yacht Club on Tuesday 12/13/2011.  The party is held for special needs children from 21 schools throughout Lee County.
Emmanuel Saint-Luc,8, a student at Patriot Elementary gets loved by Yo-Yo the puppet alien being held by Brenda Stelzer, right, during the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club annual holiday party at the Cape Coral Yacht Club on Tuesday 12/13/2011. The party is held for special needs children from 21 schools throughout Lee County.
Andrew West/news-press.com
Written by
Cristela Guerra

For one day, Yo-Yo the Puppet was almost as popular as Santa.

Kids assaulted the pink alien with kisses and he wandered through the cafeteria tables giving hugs and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

“They were so responsive,” said ventriloquist of 15 years Brenda Stelzer. “They couldn’t hug him enough. It was just so cute.”

The Cape Coral Yacht Club was packed as the Kiwanians of Cape Coral held their annual holiday party on Tuesday.

Their honored guest: 400 children with special needs from more than 20 schools across Lee County.

It’s the 32nd year the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club has continued the tradition. President Sam Huber called the event, “the best thing we do all year.”

Pizza and presents were handed out to each class. Reindeer and Santa hats were worn and volunteers sang Christmas carols to the kids. Each school received an $1,000 grant for their exceptional student education programs.

The club gave out $28,000, Huber said.

“To see those faces light up is why we’re here,” he said.

Teachers said many of the students, whose are dealing with spoken, physical and mental disabilities, found the music soothing.

“Some of these kids may or may not ever get to see Santa in person,” said Jennifer Gaines, a substitute teacher at Tanglewood Elementary.

On stage, Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Calendar Girls dancers serenaded students with Christmas and Chanukah songs.

“This was wonderful,” said Sonia Ferreira, of Cape Coral. Her 4-year-old son, Jonathan, is in pre-kindergarten at Tropic Isles Elementary. “He is so happy.”

Her son, who is taking speech therapy at the school as part of his classes, didn’t talk but his smiles and laughter with Santa and his classmates said it all.

Ann Vaughn, 67, of Cape Coral has come to the event for 10 years since she moved to the area.

“These children are often the castoffs for the school,” Vaughn said. “Due to their mental or physical handicaps they don’t always bother to have holiday parties so we do.”

The sights and sounds of the holiday season mixed in with the laughter of the kids. Red and green were everywhere as all enjoyed the festivities as well as the goodies.

“At first she was a little overwhelmed,” said Allison Adkins, 26, of her daughter Avery, 4, who goes to Orangewood Elementary. “But she warmed up to it all. It was really fun. Sometimes people are so stand-offish in public so it’s good for them to be in a place where they were accepted right away.”

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