VOL 122 NO. 8
What a Swell Party it is!
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
Johnson City — When Christina attended a party at Blessed Sacrament Parish as a pre-teen, it was a unique experience for the life-long parishioner. It was the first party she’d attended…ever. Her family had come from Laos. She was born in the U.S., but she just didn’t get invitations to celebrations. That’s how a group known as the Presidents’ Day Committee began. Its only purpose is to give a party each year on that holiday weekend for children who come from refugee families.
“A lot of these kids don’t get invited to birthday parties and what have you in their classrooms,” said committee member Chuck Haupt. “Since they always feel left out, this is one thing that they can feel they are a part of, just for the moment.”
Dozens of young people, some barely old enough to hold a basketball, took part in this year’s event on Feb. 15. Basketball was a favorite, as was picking up a bottle with a ring on a stick and other games. In arts and crafts, children used stamp pads and worked with stickers. They were spread throughout the church hall and classrooms.
“Although they’re born in America, they’re not Americanized. They’re different from the other kids. They speak languages different at home,” said organizer Don O’Dell. “We have generally come up with an idea of something to give the kids. This year we got a big donation of books from our parishioners. In the past we’ve had various things, various science games. One year, we just had legos. We had giant legos we made out of boxes. All the food was related too, so we had Jell-O legos,” O’Dell said.
This year’s theme of “Adventures in Reading” included life-size paintings of characters in books. Children could have their pictures taken as Madeline by the Eiffel Tower, The Cat in the Hat and Harry Potter with his two friends. “Hi, girls!” A smiling young woman greeted the children who came in the door. As parents signed the youngsters in, she prepared a name tag and paper bag for them. Christina Savatxagh has been involved in every President’s Day Party. In fact, she was part of the inspiration for the party. Now a freshman at Nazareth College in Rochester, the studio in art major took time from her Christmas break to draw the characters that were painted by volunteers.
“A main goal was to have refugees kids come and have a fun time,” Savatxagh said. “Throughout the years it’s grown a lot having siblings, younger siblings being able to come every year. So they look forward to it every year.” Two girls who have been to the party several times were happy to return.
Tzvtea’s family comes from Bulgaria. Her favorite games include basketball and tic tac toe. “You play games and you talk to each other,” she said. “It’s fun and you get to win lots of prizes and you get to meet with lots of friends.” Her slightly more shy companion, Srioule, liked the games and the themes.
The Susquehanna Storytellers made “Adventures in Reading” day a little more enjoyable by reading tales to the children. Before the children left, they went into a room which had red, white and blue streamers on the door. Inside, books of all kinds awaited. Organizers thought with such a great number of donations, each of the 80 or so children expected would be able to take at least two books each.
“It is one of the best things that we do all year long,” said Blessed Sacrament’s pastor, Msgr. James Kane. “It’s a good time. We have lots of volunteers, teenagers involved in it. It’s a great party.”