WDC Christmas Party Celebrates 45th Consecutive YearJan 02, 2015 01:07PM ● By Steven Chisholm
Middle-school volunteers (above) are a big part of the success of the annual event.
On December 5, residents of the Wrentham Developmental Center gathered at the Bellingham Memorial Middle School to celebrate the 45th annual Christmas party, organized by Dan and Suzanne Ranieri. Overwhelming community involvement contributed to the ongoing success of this jovial event.
With the recruiting efforts of middle school teacher Scott McDonald, the residents of the Wrentham Developmental Center were greeted by over 150 students as they stepped off the shuttles. Included in the enthusiastic crowd were several members of the local Boy and Girl Scout troops and parish CCD students. The residents were assisted into the school’s cafeteria, where they and their student aides danced to the tunes of longtime partygoer DJ Richie Hayward, who for several years has donated his time to the event.
When the residents found that they needed a break, they were treated to a pasta dinner by the Ladies of St. Anne from St. Blaise Parish, who assisted in serving the food. Once the residents finished their meal, they were brought back to the dance floor to continue the fun before Santa’s arrival.
Santa, depicted by Suzanne Ranieri’s nephew Dylan Boucher (pictured above), greeted the guests and made himself available for pictures. Every resident was called to pose with Santa and their student aides in front of a decorated tree to take pictures. The photographs were then printed so that the residents were able to take them home that very night.
Mrs. Ranieri, along with several volunteers, came out with large bags filled with wrapped presents for the guests. The residents unwrapped their presents with the help of the teenagers and were elated to show off their new clothes and other gifts to the other guests of the party.
DJ Richie Hayward continued to play music throughout the night, until the Christmas party drew to a close. The residents were able to depart from the middle school with joyous memories, full stomachs, and heaps of presents.
Suzanne Ranieri was beyond grateful for the generosity of the students and young volunteers. “They’re incredible‚ the way they interact with the guests: some of them spoon feeding them, some getting up and dancing with them. That deed probably gives me the most pleasure—seeing how great the kids are in Bellingham,” said Mrs. Ranieri.
The Wrentham Developmental Center Christmas Party has thrived throughout the 45 years since its inception. The tradition started off when Dan and Suzanne were dating. While teaching a CCD class at the high school, the couple wanted to do something charitable with their students during the holidays. When the idea of the Wrentham Developmental Center Christmas Party came to fruition, they were able to throw the party for 15 residents of the developmental center with the help of 25 students from Assumption Parish. The following year, more teachers and people wanted to get involved. When Assumption Parish closed, the Ranieri family moved the event to the middle school. Today, the guest list includes 50 residents and over 150 volunteers. According to Mrs. Ranieri, some residents have been in attendance for 25 to 30 years.
The ongoing success of the event can be attributed to the tireless efforts of the Ranieri family. “As soon as the holiday’s done, I’m hitting the clearance racks to start stockpiling for the next party,” said Mrs. Ranieri. Starting as early as Thanksgiving night, she and her daughters hit the stores, staying out until 6 a.m. the following day trying to find presents on a wish list provided to them from employees of the Wrentham facility.
Her determination in granting the wishes of the residents was exemplified when Mrs. Ranieri recalled a time when she spent hours in search of a large stuffed horse at the request of a resident. It wasn’t until turning to and scouring the internet that she found just the right present to fulfill the resident’s wish.
Her generosity was further demonstrated when she explained that she and her family will be personally visiting a resident at the facility who was too ill to attend this year’s party, bearing good tidings and, most importantly, a sackful of presents.
The Ranieri family works throughout the year to make every party a joyous occasion for all. Businesses and organizations in town, such as the Lions Club, and the police and fire departments, donate money to fund the event, but Mrs. Ranieri appreciates additional donations from anyone who wishes to get involved. The more money she’s able to raise, the more gifts the residents of the Wrentham Developmental Center get to unwrap each year.