Sometime in 1975, Mrs. Margaret Casey from Mansfield, Connecticut (CT,) had a son with special needs who was transferred to the Sand Hill Group Home for children with special needs in Simsbury, CT. Margaret was the babysitter to Dr. Phil and Mary Ann Pilon’s children. Margaret urged Mary Ann and her good friend Carol Locandro to arrange for her son to attend Sunday mass in their St.Mary’s church in Simsbury on Sundays. In the church, once a month, they had a social gathering after the mass where the special needs boy also participated.
Carol’s husband Ron Locandro and Dr. Phil Pilon are both Rotarians. They thought it would be a good idea to get the Simsbury Rotary Club (now Simsbury-Granby Rotary Club) involved so that many more special needs children in Group Homes could participate in a social gathering which these children are otherwise not privileged to. Rotary Club embraced the idea and started an annual event prior to Xmas to entertain these children from all local Group Homes. Thus started our club’s Annual Group Home Banquet for the special needs members from the local Group Homes. At the banquet we will have one of our members dressed as Santa Claus, some dressed as Elves, and seasonal music performed by the local school band, and at least two presents for each participant.
The number of Group Homes and the participants grew over the years and the children became adults. Now, over 8 Group Homes and 70 plus members attend the banquet along with their 20 plus social service counselors every year. Each Rotary Club member buy two or three presents from a wish list submitted by each member to ensure that each participant would receive at least two presents from Santa at the banquet.
At present, many of the participants are older adults and they look forward to the event every year as do the club members. We, the club members, have become well acquainted with some of the older members. As many of these members have severe physical disabilities, main dish is always meatloaf, making it easy for them to chew. No caffeine beverages are served for obvious reasons. Santa hands out the presents to each participant. They also receive a photo with Santa Claus to take home.