Briar Cliff University spreads Christmas cheer
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Spreading Christmas cheer and giving to others were the main focus of the annual Christmas Party for Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 5 at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City.
This is not only a highlight of the Christmas season for the more than 100 residents from Mid-Step Services, Opportunities Unlimited and the Pride Group but also for the students, faculty and staff of BCU who volunteer at the event sponsored by Campus Ministry.
“We are a Catholic, Franciscan university. This is our mission and identity,” said Gil Ridenour, associate campus minister at BCU. “This is what (St.) Francis did – reach out to those who people don’t always reach out to. We really care about these people.”
A short prayer service started the event and Bev Wharton, BCU president, welcomed the residents.
The meals were served by students, faculty and staff along with dessert. The Cliff Singers came in donning festive attire and led the residents in popular Christmas carols such as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls.
Ridenour said it was great to see the “child-like faces of these people when we were singing Christmas carols.
They are just filled with joy. It is such a great feeling. I get goose bumps.”
After carols were sung, Santa Claus made a visit and, with some help from his elves (Briar Cliff students), distributed Christmas gifts to each resident.
Kegan Carter, a resident at Opportunities Unlimited, said seeing some old friends was his favorite part of the day. He received a University of Iowa shirt from Santa Claus. He said he liked the Christmas Carols and sang along.
Pride Group resident, Julie Goetz, said her favorite part of the day was the food. She also liked singing along to some of the carols.
“I got some gloves, some socks and a hat,” said Goetz, who was excited to get a gift from Santa.
Elizabeth Bye, a BCU sophomore majoring in sports science, helped during the party for the first time this year. With finals coming up, she said this was a good way to take a break from the stress.
“Gil (Ridenour) is the leader of our RCIA class and I am sponsoring one of my friends who is going to be baptized this year. He asked if we wanted to help,” she said. “It was really awesome to see how happy all of them got.”
Sometimes the residents don’t get the opportunity, Bye said, “to do some of these things. We have so much to be thankful for and it is really nice to help other people who don’t.”
Planning for the event began back in October when Ridenour sent out gift requests – first, second and third choice - to the agencies.
“Right before Thanksgiving, I set up a table in the student center and started asking people if they would be willing to sponsor gifts,” said Ridenour. “They do all the shopping and bring the gifts back to me wrapped, so they are all ready to go.”
Students are also asked to donate a meal from their meal plan.
“Once someone has done this before, they realize how much fun it is,” said the associate campus minister.
About 8:30 a.m. the day of the event students helped set up the St. Francis Center. The guests started arriving about 10 a.m.
“No one is paid who is doing this. It is all volunteer hours,” said Ridenour. “It is a service project the students can do on campus.”
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