Ranieris Host Holiday Party for Wrentham Dev. Center Residents
Members of the Ranieri family with residents and volunteers
On December 4, the annual party for residents of Wrentham Developmental Center was held in the cafeteria at Bellingham Memorial Middle School. Organized by the Ranieri family, the party celebrated its 46th anniversary this year. Sue and Dan Ranieri originally came up with the idea for the program, and each year they get help for holding it from their family and the community.
“The program started when I was in CCD. We were looking for a way to help out at Christmastime,” Sue explained. “We contacted Wrentham State School, who brought fifteen clients. We had twenty-five student volunteers originally, and every year it’s grown. This year we have over fifty clients and one hundred and fifty volunteers.”
Scott McDonald, a seventh-grade teacher at BMMS, has a lot to do with recruiting the student volunteers. This year, seventy-five seventh-grade students signed up to participate, and McDonald said that the response from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. “My favorite part is to see all the volunteers coming back year after year,” he says.
The students speak highly of McDonald, or “Mr. Mack,” as he’s called. Ashleigh Hughes, a seventh-grader recruited by Mr. Mack to help out, said, “It sounded very interesting and a great way to help out.” She and her brother, Alex, were paired with a special needs adult for an evening of fun. They assisted the clients with dinner and listened to a special performance by the BMMS band. DJ Richie Hayward has been playing music at the event for forty years, and several of the volunteers and clients danced along.
The evening’s highlight was a visit from Santa, which is a hit with the clients and volunteers alike. Each resident received a bag of individualized gifts. Sue Ranieri receives a wish list in November for each participating resident, and with the help of donations from individuals, families, and Bellingham businesses, she shops sales and bargains for appropriate gifts, which are always appreciated. Each resident leaves with at least ten gifts.
Along with the joy of the residents, the interaction between the students and residents is a highlight of the evening for Sue. The party is looked forward to every year, which is clear in the joy on the faces of the participating residents and in the number of repeat volunteers, some in the second or third generation. Already, students are looking forward to next year’s event.
“I’ve been volunteering here since sixth grade, when I was recruited by Mr. Mack,” said junior Julia Caddell, “and I haven’t missed a year. I love to see how happy the residents are when they receive their gifts.” The sentiment was echoed by the residents. Thus, the Ranieri family’s efforts paid off in a festive night for all.