DIXON — A 20-plus-year tradition continued Friday as the Silveyville Christmas Tree Farm welcomed more than 170 children with disabilities, their families and staff to its annual Happy Holidays Celebration.
Kerry Purcell started the event with the goal of giving special needs children a place to call their own, albeit for a few hours, during the holiday season.
Victor Romualdi, senior director for special education with the Solano County Office of Education, stood in the warm morning sun and smiled while he talked about how heartwarming it was to see everyone having a great time.
“This is such a wonderful thing,” he said. “It brings together schools from all over the county.”
For some of those in attendance, it’s the only time of the year they get to see each other. It’s lovingly been called “the Dixon May Fair in December” in reference to the annual fair that brings the neighbors together.
Alon Mendez, 4, rocked on a wooden rocking horse, while his mother Shalec Mendez snapped pictures. His younger sister, Miah, 2, did the same, just a few wooden horses away. Alon Mendez has a speech delay.
The family had debated about standing in line for the sleigh ride, the second-most-popular attraction next to Santa.
“He knows what a line is,” Shalec Mendez said of her son. “And that line is little long right now.”
Silveyville Christmas Tree Farm provides everything for free from the hot cider and popcorn to sleigh rides.
Jeri Siefert, who operates the farm with her husband Ted Siefert, smiled as the families arrived. She had a few moments to actually watch the festivities and enjoy the reaction of one young boy when Santa dropped by. “His mom had a hard time pulling him in,” Siefert said.
She’s watched the children grow up through the two-decades plus. A young woman now in her 20s comes by to see Siefert each Christmas. “And she gives me a hug,” Siefert said.
Lisa Carter clung closely to her two grandchildren, Lisa Marie Carter, 4, and Dylan Carter, 6. The Fairfield family was enjoying the Christmas spirit.
“I thought it was worth (him) missing a day of school for,” Carter said of her grandson, who is developmentally delayed.
Within a few minutes of their arrival, the Carters had received toys and were waiting in line to share their wish list with Santa.
The event is sponsored by the Matrix Parent Network, which serves parents of children with disabilities. A bevy of community organizations and businesses help, Purcell said.
That support is key, said Sam Neustadt of the Solano County Office of Education. “These kids need all the community support they can get,” he said.
Participants ranged from infants to high school seniors. The older students, from Sierra School of Solano in Elmira, said the event got them in the mood for Christmas.
“These guys are having an amazing time,” said Vivian Crear, an assistant with the Sierra School of Solano program. “And, they are learning social skills, too.”
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