Happy holidays in Torbay

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Published on December 16, 2013

Colby Peach, is delighted with his Christmas party meal of chicken, fries and pizza.— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

Lynn Ann Auchinleck, 31, opens a paper Christmas Nut Cracker for the prize inside.— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

Tugg Drew, 32, gives Santa Claus a warm greeting and shares his wish list upon his arrival at the St. Nicholas parish hall in Torbay Saturday afternoon .

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

Tanya Cheeseman, 35, displays a plate of pizza and Mary Brown’s chicken, taters and fries she was helping to hand out to the guests for their dinner before Santa Claus arrived at the party.

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

Santa’s helper Nancy Gosse, a member of the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department ladies’ auxiliary, helped dish up Mary Brown’s fried chicken for those at the Christmas party.

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Published on December 16, 2013

— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Annual Christmas party brings good cheer for people who face challenges every day

There were plenty of wide smiles at St. Nicholas Parish Hall in Torbay Saturday afternoon even before a jolly old soul in a red suit made his way through the front door, preceeded by the sound of a ringing bell.

Santa’s presence amplified the excitement in the room. Many stood up and walked over to the big man, offering him hugs. He made sure to make time for all the special guests present for what has become a highlight of the year for many in the Northeast Avalon community.

Joe Tilley knows all too well how important the annual Christmas party for people with disabilities is to those who attend. Held each year by the Torbay Volunteer Fire Department, it has grown from an event attracting two people in its first year to one with more than two dozen attendees in its 17th year. Tilley has been there for all of them.

“We’ve got some people who’ve been coming here 16 years,” said Tilley, a former firefighter for 31 years who continues to be heavily involved in organizing the party.

There’s free food donated by local businesses, baked goods prepared by parents and friends, and gift bags distributed to the lucky folks who come to the party. For those interested in showing off some dance moves, there’s music blasting from a sound system.

“It brings out more Christmas cheer in everybody than any other event as far as I’m concerned,” said Mayor Ralph Tapper, who has attended the event for several years.

Angie Sheppard and her son Tugg Drew have been coming to the party for six years, and she has helped with organizing it for the last five years. She said her son especially enjoys the social aspect of the party. He comes with her in the morning to help get things set up and makes a point of introducing himself to everyone who comes.

“He loves to greet everybody, hang their coats,” she said. “He’s very social that way.”

She particularly loves to see the party’s guests interact with Santa Claus.

“The tears,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

The party was initially held at the local fire hall, but grew to the point that it required a larger venue.

Marina Sullivan started taking her 16-year-old son Marcus Sullivan to the party when he was 10 years old.

“It’s just splendid now what goes on,” she said, noting the considerable work put into the party by volunteers. “There’s just so much hard work from everybody going into it, and we love it. It’s his favourite event to come to. It’s just all the activities.”

Like Sheppard, Sullivan highlights the social importance of getting to attend the party.

“They’re all in the same community, so when they come, it’s very special, because let’s face it, our kids don’t get anybody calling them saying, ‘Do you want to come out and play?’ It depends on Special Olympics (in St. John’s), it depends on these events, so it’s that big for them.”

Organizations: Torbay Volunteer Fire Department, Special Olympics

Geographic location: Torbay, Northeast Avalon

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