Talk about lion-hearted!
A Bensonhurst civic group hosted a party for hundreds of special-needs students at a 13th Avenue catering hall on Dec. 10 — and a couple colorful characters decided to drop in, too.
It was a scene from a dream when more than 200 local grammar school children — all with learning disabilities, sight or hearing impairments, or a wheelchair dependency — flooded Sirico’s caterers for the Bensonhurst Lions Club’s 49th annual Christmas party. There to greet them were clowns, gorillas, the Grinch, Batman, Superman, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and — of course — Santa Claus. Organizers said the bash was a way of both honoring the Lions Club’s core commitment to aiding those with illnesses or disabilities, and of celebrating the holiday season.
“We do for these kids to give them a little something special at Christmas,” said Sal Arena, who oversees the event.
Skywalker and Vader drew their lightsabers and dueled for the kids, and the Grinch taunted them by threatening to steal their Christmas presents — only to learn a lesson about the meaning of Christmas from Saint Nick. The jolly holiday elf then gave out all manner of presents, including basketballs, soccer balls, train sets, Barbies, Cabbage Patch babies, and even bicycles.
“Each child leaves with a special gift,” said Arena.
The kids also got a chance to let loose and dance, with Arena’s daughter Donna serving as DJ.
“A lot of the kids who the teachers say never participate, she gets them out on the floor,” Arena said.
Despite the effort and planning involved in pulling the party off, Arena said hosting the event is its own reward.
“Getting to see these kids, and the way they interact with these characters when they come out, is truly like a Christmas gift for each of us,” Arena said. “We look forward to it every year.”