Sunday, December 20, 2009

If Christmas was......

Legions post's party a hit with Kids
Salisbury post- story and pictures by Kathy Chaffin

If Christmas was a child, it might be Kaleb Fovian when he's dancing.

Entertainer Ron Johnson teased 7-year-old Kaleb about taking over his show when he began to dance at the Harold B. Jarrett American Legion Post 342's annual Christmas party Tuesday morning. Kaleb danced like a boy in love with life.

If Christmas was a child, it might be Maggie Fitzgerald when she says she's 13.

And how old will she be next year? Johnson wanted to know.

"Fourteen," she said, then "15" and "16."

"You just keep on getting older and older, don't you?" Johnson asked.

Maggie counted with great exuberance, still too young to think about getting old.

If Christmas was a child, it might be 8-year-old Bradley Hill when he's laughing.

He laughed with wild abandon at Johnson's antics at the party. It was a wide-open laugh with all his teeth showing and his eyes shining with joy.

If Christmas was a child, it might be Ashlyn Williams when Santa enters the room.

She watched his every move at the party, reaching out for him whenever he got close. When Santa handed her a gift, she gleefully tore the wrapping paper off the toy keyboard.

Then instead of playing with the keyboard, she seemed to take great delight in tearing the paper into little pieces.

About 50 students from the Exceptional Children's programs at Koontz, Overton and Shive elementary schools and Erwin and Southeast middle schools had a grand time at the party.

Phyllis Richardson, who chairs the Harold B. Jarrett Legion Auxiliary's Children and Youth Committee, said Post 342 has held the Christmas party every year for at least 25 years. Richardson said she worked with developmentally disabled children for eight years, "and I just love them."

Harry Garwood, chairman of the Legion Post's Children and Youth Committee, said the students look forward to returning every year. The highlight of the party is at the end, he said, when Santa arrives with a gift for each child.

Johnson, a magician/singer/ventriloquist from Burlington, was back for an encore performance as entertainer, commenting on how much some of the children had grown since he had last seen them.

Pulling students into his acts, Johnson did tricks, sang Christmas carols and performed with his ventriloquist puppets Eddie the Bear and Clyde the Human. The entertainer told the children he has a 63-year-old sister with cerebral palsy.

Johnson convinced Catawba football coach Radell Lockhart, an Exceptional Children's teacher at Southeast Middle, to help him with a magic trick. Lockhart followed his directions and tucked a scarf inside the front of his pants.

Then they each pulled an end of the scarf, bringing out a pair of men's striped bikini underwear. "Those aren't mine," Lockhart said as the children laughed.

Eddie the Bear, one of Johnson's sidekicks, told him he recognized a pretty girl at the party. He went on to tell Hannah Baker, a Rowan-Cabarrus student who was volunteering with her teacher mother, that she was his girlfriend and that he loved her.

Johnson and his puppets were a hit with children and adults alike. When he finished, they lined up for hot dogs with all the trimmings, potato chips, potato salad, ice cream and a drink.

Afterward, the children sat on the floor around the Christmas tree waiting for the main event — Santa Claus himself. The jolly man in the red suit, who also answers to Tommy Costantino, entered from the office of Nellie Troxell, secretary at the Legion Post.

Children waited their turns while Santa handed out presents to each one. Five-year-old Sarai Trinidad from Shive held onto her unwrapped present for a few minutes, basking in the excitement, before opening it to find a doll inside.

She smiled and held the doll lovingly to her chest. Ah, the magic of Christmas.

Story by Kathy Chaffin