Rotary continues kids’ Christmas party tradition, despite pandemic

The Rotary Club of Cincinnati has been throwing a Christmas party for children with disabilities for more than 100 years, and this year has been no exception – despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Santa (Bob McElroy) and his helpers deliver presents at the Rotary Club’s drive-through party.

More than 120 students received gifts and enjoyed dancing elves in masks, costumed mascots and yuletide treats at the club’s first “drive-through Christmas” at Roselawn Condon School.

The school serves children with significant disabilities and other special needs from across the city. For some families, the Rotary’s annual party brings the child’s only Christmas gifts, said Terri Boeing, who co-chaired the party with Brad Green.

“The kids look forward to this every year,’ said Lauren Borcherding, lead multiple disabilities teacher at the school. “So often our students can be overlooked or left out of things. People aren’t sure how to include our children.” 

Kaliyah Ward with Roselawn Condon School teacher Lauren Borcherding

Some have intellectual or physical disabilities. Some use wheelchairs or other assistance. But they are still kids who want to be kids, Borcherding said.   

The Rotary Club of Cincinnati, Borcherding said, “paid teachers to go into the hospital with medically fragile kids when there were no schools for them.” The organization created those first in-hospital classes for children with disabilities more than 100 years ago, classes that eventually led to the creation of Roselawn Condon School. 

This year’s party featured masks, distancing, and lots of gifts. For those students who couldn’t make the drive-through, teachers and Rotary volunteers delivered gifts to their homes.

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