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My Turn, Vernon Walters: What Christmas is really about

Nazareth

Vernon Walters has been the president and CEO of Nazareth Child & Family Connection for 19 years.

Anyone searching for the true meaning of Christmas should have been in the gymnasium on the campus of Nazareth Child & Family Connection Saturday. It didn’t make any difference what time of the day it was, the spirit of Christmas was everywhere for the Bikers with a Cause annual Christmas visit.

Before 9 o’clock, volunteers were in the kitchen and adjoining rooms, preparing a huge meal for later in the day. More volunteers were setting up tables and chairs for the meal. Others were getting Santa’s overstuffed chair in place and making sure the Christmas tree behind him was decorated.

There was a steady stream of folks all day long bringing in presents for our young residents. Some brought one; some brought arms’ full. One even pulled a red wagon full of presents into the gym.

Shortly after 1 o’clock, the rumble of motorcycles was heard as the Bikers with a Cause rolled onto campus followed by a long line of car-club members in their Mustangs and Chargers. Trunks were opened, and more presents were brought in.

Let’s stop right here, though, and make one thing perfectly clear: the day wasn’t about gifts. It was about people and kids and what Christmas is supposed to be about. It was about smiling faces and hugs and warm handshakes. It was about the laughter of kids and the feeling that they were wanted and loved.

I can’t really describe the warmth I felt in the gymnasium on Saturday afternoon. People from all walks of life together for one goal: sharing their love with these children and teens who need all the compassion, support and encouragement they can get. Some of these kids had never experienced Christmas until they came to us. Sure, they may have gotten some gifts, but they never felt the Christmas spirit they did Saturday.

Darby Dillard and his wife Betty are the angels behind Bikers with a Cause. Somehow, they magically put it all together every year. Think about this: every wish list of every child totally filled; enough food donated for a fine Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for more than 300; a gospel band playing carols; and literally more volunteers than you could count. That’s what Darby and Betty have been doing for more than a decade now.

I stood back and watched in amazement Saturday and thought how fortunate and how blessed Nazareth is. And not just for all the fun and excitement and joy of Saturday.

We are blessed year-around by our community. We are blessed by the many who have given so much to make our mission easier. We are so thankful that so many understand every child should have a fair shot in life. We are thankful for those who help put a sparkle in a child’s eye where there hasn’t been one before.

We saw a lot of sparkling eyes Saturday afternoon. For me, Christmas came early!

Vernon Walters has been the president and CEO of Nazareth Child & Family Connection for 19 years.

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