By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Convention Hall buzzed Dec. 14 with a special group of students from the three local school systems, and the people working with the United Steel Workers of America AFL-CIO Local No. 12 to give them a Christmas party to remember.
Special needs students from Etowah County, Gadsden City and Attalla schools participated in the annual Christmas Party for Exceptional Children, enjoying musical performances, visits with Christmas characters and a full morning of fun away from their ordinary school setting.
The party grew out of the kindness of a few people who wanted to help a co-workers child, and grew to serve all the special needs children in Etowah County’s three school systems.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Special Education Director Sharon Brown said of the Local 12.
The party last week was a large one, with performances from the Highland Choir, the Westbrook Drumline, the Emma Sansom jazz band and choir and the Gadsden Dazzlers. Members of the Rainbow Middle School Student Government Association attended (some dressed as Rudolph, Frosty, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse) to interact with the students and assist with the party.
When this annual Christmas party got its start, past local president W.A. Davenport said, no one imagined it would grow into the kind of event held this year.
“It started in the tire room,” Davenport recalled. There was an employee whose child had special needs, and a group of his coworkers decided they want to do something for the child, he said.
“We made up (money) to do something for that child,” Davenport said. “And we decided to extend it.”
This year marks the 61st year that the Local No. 12 has extended the Christmas cheer to special needs children in the county, President David Hayes said. “(The employees) just knew there were children in the community with special needs and wanted to make sure they had a good Christmas.”
Hayes said over the years, as the scope of the party grew the Etowah County School Special Education Department stepped in to help with the organization. The Local 12 members continued their work to fund and support the annual event.
For some of the students, Davenport said, he understands the party is a highlight of their Christmas – something they look forward to each year.
“I know it’s a highlight of mine,” Davenport added.