Their dad, Vito Canella, started the holiday festivity after discovering that there were few organized holiday events for his autistic daughter. Through the years, the Canellas put her in many programs throughout the community, including Tierra del Sol of Sunland-Tujunga and the city of Pasadena Parks and Recreation. “They have some great programs for the disabled,” said Chase.
However, it was apparent that there was a need to share some holiday joy with this special group of people, some of whom have no other real Christmas celebration. Through the years it has grown into the event that it is today.
Guests mostly came from around the neighboring communities, such as the Pasadena City Recreation Center, Glendale Association and Interact Program, and Tierra Del Sol.
There was food and decorated holiday goodie bags prepared for the guests upon their arrival. Parishioners from Holy Redeemer, volunteers from Crescenta Valley High School and other members of the community helped greet the guests, serve meals and get the party going.
Julie Kay Stallcup’s dancers from the Revolution Dance Center also made an appearance during the party. After performing several tap-dance, freestyle and ballet numbers, they gathered to teach the Cha-Cha Slide. Many of the guests got up to dance, while others clapped and cheered along to the beat.
Then Santa Claus made his much anticipated appearance to deliver holiday gifts for all. Each party attendee received a bag full of wrapped Christmas presents from the “jolly old elf” as he called up each guest by name.
The current economic climate may have created challenges in collecting donations for the gifts, but if there were any difficulties, it was not noticeable, according to Chase.
“People around the community are very generous,” she said, indicating the overflowing shopping bags full of presents.
She also pointed out that parishioners and community members contributed toward purchasing the food as well.
As each guest left the church hall with a smile on their face and arms full of presents, it was apparent that the party was a success.
“A lot of people here don’t have their own homes; this is their only Christmas,” said Chase. “But we all want to have a good holiday; it’s good to share our hearts with one another in this way.”