|A letter from Frank Kral (Founder)
THE AUTISTIC CHRISTMAS
This venture started in 1973 for approximately 28 autistic kids. Gifts, Santa, phonograph sing-a-long, food, and games were gradually added, through the years, interwoven into the day's activities. The parties were held on Saturdays so that parents and volunteer workers could transport the children to and from the OSCA club grounds. Children from the Russell Home and others randomly selected were invited. This came about, mostly by word of mouth, that there was an autistic child here and there. At no time was a numerical cap set as to the number of children to be served.
In 1976, Tiny Humr volunteered his musical services and whenever possible brought other musicians. This segment of entertainment has continued to improve since that initial day in 1976 with Robert Elder now handling the sing-a-long activity. Still to be found is a responsible person to see that all able children have a dance partner... and the kids sure do love to dance!
In 1982, the date of the party was changed to mid-week with students and teachers coming from McCoy (They had their own busses.) and the Russell Home group numbered about 125. Now the American Legion and Lions got involved. Animal acts, an astronaut, clowns, the American Legion # 40 & #8 locomotive rides added a little more zest to the undertaking.
Last year, the Primrose children, the McCoy group, Russell Home, Seminole, and Osceola made up approximately 340 children who attended. The Kiwanis and Rotary joined in this venture plus a host of business organizations.
This year it was decided to incorporate the younger element (age group 4-14) on one day and the 15-60 age group on another day. The plan was to have the younger group at the Princeton Complex (Planetarium, Busch Theatre, and Garden Club Hall), but a corresponding day for all facilities could not be worked out. Hence, it was very important that extra precautions be taken so that none of the youngsters get hurt at the lakeside facility of the Orange County Sportsman Association.
That year there was approximately 700 children served, and coming in to join hands to help with this venture was various union chapters and several chefs/restaurant associations. Even pony rides are scheduled. It sounds like a horn of plenty, but it isn't exactly.
More money...more…leadership...more help is always needed because next year the number of kids could be even larger. As there are no expenses for administering this project, whatever money is left will go towards the following years party.
We're hopeful that you will be a part of the cadre of Santa’s helpers this year if your time permits.
If you didn't know that Santa’s helpers came in cadres, neither did I until recently.
Have a great and wonderful Christmas all of you, throughout all of 1985.
P.S. The heading Autistic Christmas without the word, party, simply means there is more work to be done...starting right after the party.