Delayed Christmas party still delights kids

Winter weather cancelled their December event at Inverness Jail, in outer East Portland, but you’ll see how the rescheduled party was a big hit …

Members of the Wilson High School Leadership group form a “welcoming bridge” for Community Transitional School students at the party. They’d raised $3,500 for school supplies and sporting equipment to give to the kids.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

For 27 years, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has proudly hosted an Annual Community Transitional School Holiday Party.

The 28th party, scheduled for December 15, 2016, almost didn’t take place –winter storms forced cancellation. By the time the weather cleared, the students were out of school for the Holidays.

But, the party was rescheduled to January 6 – and everyone involved was hoping it would still be a delightful, if delayed, experience for kids.

MSCO Program Administrator Katie Burgard and Legislative Administrative Assistant Diane Hutchinson make sure all the gifts for this year’s party are ready.

“We left the room decorated, and covered the gifts so they’d stay clean and tidy – and then scrambled and got everybody organized to come back to put this on here,” said MCSO Legislative Administrative Assistant Diane Hutchinson, the organizer of this year’s celebration, now called a “Winter Party”.

“We’ve got pizza, and Santa Claus is coming down from the North Pole to make a special delayed appearance, but I hope the kids will understand that his sleigh is in ‘the shop for maintenance’ after being out delivering Christmas presents,” Hutchinson told East Portland News.

As the program begins, the students look ready to enjoy a fun-filled morning.

Tables were set up in the large Inverness Jail conference room, and about 90 of the 120 students approved to attend were already pulling up in school busses outside the building.

Hutchinson explained that each of the kids is given two gifts; one is shoes or clothing, and the other is something specifically which the child had requested. “Then, volunteers wrap and pack all of the gifts, and make sure they’re properly tagged with the child’s name,” she said.

The entire party, including gifts, entertainment, and food, is funded by donations, Hutchinson pointed out.

With the help of some students, and the MCSO Color Guard, Corrections Division Captain Raimond Adgers leads the Pledge of Allegiance.

Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese swears in “Special Deputies”.

After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese led the youngsters in a “swearing in ceremony”, in which the kids promise to be respectful, responsible, safe, honest, creative, imaginative, and to do their homework,

The oath ended with “To be the best kid that I can be, and to make green my favorite color!” after which Reese awarded the kids with Special Deputy Sheriff badges.

Representing the school, Community Transitional School Principal Cheryl Bickle thanks everyone for their efforts on behalf of the students.

“For our students, this school is a refuge from the trauma and hardships of poverty and uncertainty,” said Community Transitional School Principal and classroom teacher Cheryl Bickle.

“The Christmas party is the highlight that ends this part of the school year,” Bickle told East Portland News, as the day’s entertainment began.

“Our returning kids look forward to it all year; those who haven’t been to it have heard about it, and are excited – hoping to be chosen to come,” Bickle said.

To be selected, Bickle explained, the students need to have good attendance, do their homework consistently, and exhibit good behavior. “This means some kids don’t get to come, but we hope this will be a learning experience that will help them realize that with positive behavior comes benefits.”

The comedic antics of BJ the Clown gets howls of laughter from both kids and adults.

Using a trunk full of simple props, BJ the Clown again entertained at the party with magic tricks and stunts, many of them performed by the audience members. Adults noted how BJ sets his helpers up to win and look good in front of their peers, instead of making them the butt of a joke

After entertainment, it’s lunchtime with fresh, hot pizza, fruit, cookies, and sodas – all served by MCSO volunteers.

With R2D2 looking on, his youngster meets with Santa (retired Corrections Deputy Don Bryant).

Over the years, now-retired MCSO Corrections Deputy Don Bryant has portrayed Santa at the party.

Meeting the kids, through the eyes of Santa, Bryant said, “Means the world to me; I’ve heard so many wonderful things. Older kids tell you about a toy they want; but sometimes the young ones will tell me, ‘All I want is a home’.”

After visiting with Santa, each student receives a toy from Sheriff Reese.

“It is incredible to see this tradition continue in the Sheriff’s Office over decades,” Sheriff Mike Reese told East Portland News.

“This doesn’t take place because of me, the Sheriff, but because of all of these wonderful people who make sure these kids have a great Holiday party.

“Seeing the volunteer effort of everyone in the office, and our partners, makes me really grateful to be back at the Sheriff’s Office,” Reese said. “It shows the great connections we have with the community, especially the children.”

This year’s Honor Roll of supporters includes:

Wilson High School Leadership Group
The Multnomah County Command Officers Association
The Multnomah County Corrections Deputy Association
Multnomah County Deputy Sheriff’s Association
AFSCME Local 88 ~ Multnomah County Corrections Health
Multnomah County Judges ~ Aramark

When the kids piled back on their busses, their faces were bright with joy, as were the volunteers who’d again made this festive party possible.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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