Santa Claus visited the residents of the Life Care Center of the Willows, celebrating the holiday season during their first Christmas party. Presents piled under the vibrant pine tree, carolers sang songs, and even Elvis Presley made a cameo.
The party was celebrated in the afternoon on Dec. 16, at the center located at 1000 Elizabeth Dr. The center is an inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facility with 24-hour skilled nursing care. It was the center’s first Christmas party, and definitely not the last.
“The community really came together to put this together, to make sure that every resident got a gift,” said Robyn Rutar, Activities Director of the Center. “The residents growing up had family celebrations of their own. Christmas brings back a lot of memories for them. This party turns what could be grief into joy and happiness. It’s important to be able to give them that.”
Resident Cyndi Hyde’s favorite Christmas tradition is when her son visits from Toledo to set up her tree. She loves the way he decorates her room with lovely lights, and of course is delighted to see him. Her second now is the Christmas party with her fellow residents.
“These parties are always wonderful. It’s nice to get together with everyone, especially at Christmas time with Christmas presents. You don’t expect it,” she said.
Hyde received a bottle of Moon Light Path lotion from Bath and Body Works and a package of Jolly Ranchers, her favorite candy.
More than eight organizations, churches, and businesses provided the 85 presents distributed amongst the residents. They were each given around 10 Angels with Christmas wish lists written on them. Places like Good Shepherd Church and First United Methodist shopped and wrapped a surprise that guaranteed everyone a good holiday.
Santa, played by Chaplain Craig Ferguson of the Visiting Nurse’s Association, made his jolly way around the crowd. Elvis was impersonated by professional entertainer Brian Butler.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s one of the things I do, through the VNA. The elderly have a lot of fun with Santa. They make it fun. My absolute favorite time was a few years ago, I took a picture with a 96-year-old woman on one knee and her great-great-granddaughter on the other. They loved it. The family will be eating that picture up forever.”
Ruter was also touring the room, holding hands and sorting presents, making sure the afternoon went perfect.
“There’s so much I want to do this year,” she said. Next week, the Center is expecting a horse disguised as a reindeer, and a dinner with the residents’ families. “Christmas is an important time of year for everyone. It’s important that we continue that.”