Boys and Girls Club hosts dinner
HUNTINGTON -- A wall of presents behind her, an enormous Christmas meal before her, 10-year-old Deedee Beals could've easily gotten lost in the hoopla of it all.
Yet, the Highlawn Elementary School student shunned the hustle and bustle when asked what was her favorite part of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Huntington annual Christmas party Tuesday evening at the club's Guyandotte location.
"I like all the people, all the attention, all my friends are here," Beals said. "It's not really about the presents, but appreciating one another and watching the other kids perform."
The yearly Christmas festivities, going on for as many years as executive director Dortha Williamson could remember, provide a party atmosphere complete with Christmas dinner, singing, gifts and more.
"This is Christmas for the children. We don't know who gets things at home and who does not, and a lot of our children are needy, so this gives them the chance to celebrate the season with the rest of the world," Williamson said.
More than 200 children from the Boys and Girls Clubs' 14th Street, Westmoreland and Guyandotte locations, and 25-plus volunteers, packed the gymnasium for the evening, one of many bonding opportunities presented to the children throughout the year, according to Williamson.
"For our kids, this is friends. This is safety. This is home," she said.
Board president John Anderson, who has been involved with the Clubs for more than four decades, said he's always felt the need to help children who often don't have many opportunities at home.
"For some of our kids, this is their only Christmas. You think, 'How can that be, in Huntington, West Virginia?' but it's true. It means so much to them," Anderson said.
Anderson said the Christmas program is made possible by many generous donors, but lauded the program's successes year-round, not just at the holidays.
"We provide a good meal to the kids every day and a snack every day. We have a tutoring program where we can guide their progress with the school system," Anderson said. "We emphasize not only recreation, but education. There are a lot of things Boys and Girls Clubs do that are not getting done otherwise, and I'm proud to be a part of that."
Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.