Rockaway Special Olympics Holiday Party
By Joe Featherston
Rockaway's Special Olympics Program held its Fifth Annual Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's holiday party at the St. Camillus gymnasium on December 17th.
As always, Santa Claus appeared as impersonated by John Hamilton. Santa distributed tee-shirts with the Special Olympics logo designed by Holly of It's All Good to all the athletes and their coaches as well as some friendly guests. Santa also distributed some special toys, games and books to the Special Olympics.
These were indeed special because Operation Helping Hands and Caring Hearts of Lebanon, Pennsylvania donated them to various youth groups in the Rockaway Peninsula. This was to show Lebanon's support and concern in the wake of our recent tragedies. Volunteers Melissa Coower, Michelle Donley, Ann Marie Fick-Shindel, Tara Kupp, Marion Edwards, Ryan Kelly, Steven Bonino, Larry Bonino and John Bonino collected these gifts from the citizens of Lebanon and then drove a truck to Rockaway to distribute them at the Beach Club.
The holiday party began with a real surprise for the athletes and their families. A magician, John Carlson, performed his multiple bags of tricks for one hour. Highlights included the "marriage" of Liz Sena and Jeff Resnick, and the chicken dance performed by John and Javon Gardner. The magician appearing had disappearing animals, balloons and scarves, and he told many funny tales.
His appearance was a gift from the Graybeard Basketball Club, previously known for its spirited summer league hoop showdowns. The club decided after the peninsula's recent sad events, to also dedicate itself to various forms of community service and support. Steven and Kathy Stathis contacted the magician and introduced him to the Special Olympians.
The appearance of local community dignitaries and some friendly supporters of the program honored the party. These guests included newly elected City Councilman Joe Addabbo, his aide, Patricia McCabe, the Commander of the 100th Precinct, Captain Charles Talamo, the past president of the 100th Precinct Community Council, Jerry Rashkis, Rita and Flip Mullen, Virginia and John Courtney, Bethann Featherston, Pepe, Bob Sommerfield, and, of course, the sponsor of our program, Father James Dunne. An extra treat for the athletes was the surprise return from college of two former volunteer coaches, Kiera Duffy and Katie Grogran.
The party concluded with a holiday banquet. All enjoyed the cakes baked by the parents and Katie Grogan as well as the cookies donated by Nellie Duncan Bakery's John and Kathy Edwards. The athletes then ate ice cream donated by Flip Mullen and James Alberino.
The St. Camillus Program sincerely thanks all of the above people whose generosity and presence contributed to a truly wonderful holiday. The program is also announcing to the community that it is now making plans to travel to Ireland in early August.