The 4-year-old whispered something to Santa and after the exchange, his face lit up like a Christmas tree. His big kid “buddies,” Frank Manning and Rhett Kinney, took Deshawn to a table to eat holiday treats and color. When asked what he asked Santa for this year, the child said, “A watch. A Spider-Man watch.”
Darlington Middle School hosted its annual Christmas party for the children of the Rebecca Blaylock Child Development Center from 2 to 4 p.m.
Tiger Pride President Kelly McClain said 140 children, ages 2 to 5, from the Child Development Center attended the event that has become a holiday tradition of more than 20 years.
“They’re so excited,” she said of the young visitors, “They’re not sure about all the big kids, but they’re really doing a great job this year and it really helps all the Darlington students to experience taking care of, looking after and providing a service to someone else.”
She said it was Darlington’s mission statement for students to learn to serve.
“That’s part of our mission at Darlington, which is learn with passion, act with integrity and serve with respect, and this is the service part of that,” she said. “I think this benefits both the little kids and our big kids.”
Bebe Zazzaro, Darlington counselor, said the children at the Rebecca Blaylock center make Christmas wish lists in advance and the older children go shopping for them with their homeroom teachers.
“They send us lists of kids and their wish lists, and the homerooms adopt groups of kids and designate big buddies,” she said. “And then they go out and they shop with their Darlington partner for their Rebecca buddy.”
When the smaller children arrived, their designated buddies took them to see Santa and the children asked Santa for what was on their wish lists. Then they eat their snacks, go outside and play games, and finally open their gifts in the common area.
“It’s something that the Darlington students are so excited to be a part of and they just can’t wait to meet their buddy and they’ve been excited for weeks,” Zazzaro said. “And the little kids are just so excited to have somebody else care about them, look them in the eye, play with them. It’s just that huge Christmas spirit that everybody’s filled with.”
Shaundricka Brockman, a teacher at the Rebecca Blaylock center, said the children were always ecstatic about coming to the Christmas party.
“The kids look forward to coming here every year,” she said. “They talk about it all day, all week. We hear about it until the day. They love coming here. The parents love it too because it’s a field trip for their kids to get out and see bigger kids and interact and get their toys too.”
Addie Holmes, an eighth-grader at Darlington, said her Rebecca buddy, Sazariah, had wanted a Barbie, a Barbie boat and a Barbie car. And that’s exactly what she got.
But Addie, who has been a big buddy for the last four years, said it’s just as rewarding for the Darlington students to be able to give. “I think you get a lot from the kids and like you learn about them,” Addie said. “Opening presents is probably the best thing because you get to see their faces just light up. They get so excited and it just really makes us feel good.”