A day to 'just be kids': Rotary Club kicks off Christmas season for kids with special needs

Toronto’s longest-running Christmas party for children welcomed than 500 guests on Sunday to help kick off the holiday season.

Snowball fight with Toronto police, Santa meet and greet among party highlights

The 89th annual annual Rotary Club of Toronto Children’s Christmas Party gave kids the opportunity to meet Santa himself. (CBC)

Toronto's longest-running Christmas party for children welcomed more than 500 guests on Sunday to help kick off the holiday season.

The Rotary Club of Toronto Children's Christmas Party is an annual event for kids with special needs, and this year, kids had the opportunity to meet Santa himself and pick up some gift bags, along with having some Christmas fun.

Jeff Dobson, president of the Rotary Club of Toronto, says Sunday's big party was all about the kids.

"It's all about fun, celebration, having laughs, and we want to do our part to try and start the season off with some laughs and some fun," he told CBC Toronto.

Jeff Dobson, president of the Rotary Club of Toronto, says the Children's Christmas Party on Sunday was all about the kids. (CBC)

The Rotary Club worked with Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf, CNIB, Easter Seals Ontario, the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the Starlight Foundation of Canada to help make the party possible.

And the event, now in its 89th year, took place downtown at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, where it began in 1929.

Dobson says he has been at about 16 Rotary Children's Christmas Parities, adding that there have been a number of highlights over the years.

"Every single highlight for me is when I get to walk around the room and see the smiles on the faces of these kids. That's what it's all about."

A day to 'just be kids'

Crystal Spice was at the event with her son Steven, who had two brain surgeries for chiari malformation — a congenital condition also known as spina bifida. They attended the party as members of the Starlight Foundation.

"[The party] means the world to kids because they spend most of their time in and out of hospitals," she said, adding that her son is at Sick Kids Hospital between three to five times a month. 

"It gives them a day to actually just be kids."

Crystal Spice and her son Steven at The Rotary Club of Toronto’s Children’s Christmas Party on Sunday. Spice says her son had two brain surgeries for chiari malformation and came with the Starlight Foundation. (CBC)

She says Steven was most looking forward to the snowball fight with members of the Toronto police.

Spice said the Christmas party is also very important to her.

"As a mom you get to see them be forced to grow up more than most kids have to," she said. "They get to let loose and have fun for one day out of an entire year."

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