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20111209_SISD_special-Ed_Xmas07MISSION — Christmas spirit was high among the children from the Sharyland Independent School District who were guests of St. Paul’s Catholic Church’s Altar Society on Tuesday for a special Christmas celebration. 

A blow-up merry-go-round featuring Santa’s reindeer and Christmas music playing in the background added to the sense of festivities.

Adrianne Rodriguez, chairwoman of the event, said the St. Paul’s Altar Society has been an event for children with special needs for over 20 years. While children without learning disabilities often have many special holiday activities to look forward to, many of those with special needs often get left out of festivities.

The women of St. Paul’s Altar Society started the party to give those children a special event to enjoy during the holiday season. Special education teachers provide a list of toys that their children want; each child gets a toy he or she desires as part of the festivities.

The ladies interact with the children by dancing, popping balloons or through other activities. Then Santa Claus arrives to give each child his or her gift. The children are given a period of time to enjoy their gifts before a lunch.

Crystal Reeder, a special education teacher at Bentsen Elementary, has taught children with special needs for 10 years and said children are thrilled to go to the Christmas party. They talk in class about what toys Santa will give them. They have a unit she calls, “Jingling Our Way to St. Paul’s for a Wonderful Christmas Celebration.” Two weeks before the party they make Christmas hats and get stockings ready for the holiday.

“Besides Special Olympics, this is the event my children look forward to attending most,” said Reeder.

The ladies who put on the party have almost as much fun as the children who attend. 

“The most beautiful part is seeing their smiles and knowing they are having a great time,” said Santa’s Helper Alma Arriola.

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