by Jasmine Hunt
From the Editor: Jasmine Hunt is a member of the Keystone Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania and the coordinator of the NFB-NEWSLINE® service there. The Saint Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments is located in Philadelphia, and the Keystone Chapter works hard to see that the children from this school have good role models, extra-curricular activities, and some much-appreciated presents at Christmastime. Here’s what Jasmine has to say:
Keystone Chapter members of the NFB of Pennsylvania acted as Santa’s helpers, delivering loads of presents during the Christmas season to the campus of Saint Lucy Day School and Archbishop Ryan Academy for the Deaf in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Teachers and staff kept the gifts safe until the big day, scheduled for the last day of school before the students’ winter break. On that special December morning chapter members met at the large brick building and greeted the young students with smiles and merry Christmas wishes, some of the students being BELL participants and active chapter members. Meanwhile, students brought in doughnuts, cookies, and other treats to offer the NFB guests and share with friends. As the students filed into the chapel, caroling commenced and sounds of little drummer boys and red-nosed reindeers filled the air. With the guidance of the NFB volunteers, students from first grade and beyond maneuvered with their white canes and located their respective aisles and seats.
Then, coming down the hallway, there arose such a clatter, and the children all wondered what was the matter. Jingle bells rang as someone came quick, hushed whispers around the room swore it was Saint Nick! Santa entered with a “Ho, ho, ho!” And his huge, bulky bag (thanks to the NFB of Pennsylvania helpers) and excitement circled the room with all the students on the edge of their seats. Each listened with intense interest as Santa spoke about generosity and faith and the true meaning of Christmas.
Then, one-by-one, Santa called out all the names from his “nice” list—each student was handed a personalized gift chosen for them and donated by chapter members and local service agencies. Through such agencies, the NFB of Pennsylvania members help teach the public what gifts are sensible and functional for blind, deaf, and deaf-blind elementary school students.
Each student was instructed to wait patiently to open their gift until everyone had received their presents. The students returned to their seats, handling their presents with care and eagerly waiting for the instant they could rip open the wrapping paper. Finally, Santa announced that fateful moment, and the room erupted with exuberant paper tearing, shrieks of surprise, and fits of laughter. The teachers, staff, and Keystone members joined in with smiles and amusement, enjoying the benefits of a job well done at Santa’s workshop this year.
The longtime tradition of volunteerism, kindness, and educational support between both institutions and the NFB of Pennsylvania doesn’t stop with Christmas presents but continues with the Braille Carnival, promotion of the Braille Readers are Leaders contest, and a consistent flow of volunteers for tutoring in Braille, spelling, and cane usage. Each NFB of Pennsylvania member works hand-in-hand with both staff and students to promote awareness and independence.The NFB of Pennsylvania and both schools partner in several events throughout the year to support the children in understanding their common bond with blind adults as well as informing the public about the needs of blind students. It is the willingness of blind adults to help make this difference that brought Santa to school for these deserving children this Christmas.