Ranieris Host Annual Wrentham Developmental Center Christmas PartyDec 31, 2018 06:00AM ● By Amy Bartelloni
Student volunteers Cameron Hasselbaum, Landon Gibbs, and Aidan Gibbs spend time with one of the residents.
story and photos by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer
This year marked the forty-ninth annual Ranieri family Christmas party for fifty residents of the Wrentham Developmental Center. Formerly known as Wrentham State School, the Wrentham Developmental Center is a home for physically and mentally handicapped adults.
Held this year on Friday, December 7th, the party, previously held at Bellingham Memorial School, was moved two years ago to the Wrentham site for the comfort of the residents. Students of Bellingham Memorial and High School, many of whom have volunteered several years in a row, were bused in to help out.
Twelve-year-old Robert Kliemola was one of this year’s volunteers who spent time visiting with residents. “It’s fun to help people,” he said of the event. It was his first time volunteering, but he’s already looking forward to next year’s event.
Santa (portrayed each year by a member of the Ranieri family) was present to hand out presents to residents such as the woman seated next to him.
The Ranieri family credit much of the success of the party to the generosity of volunteers and the business community, who, according to organizer Sue Ranieri, have “always been willing to help make Christmas a little brighter for those less fortunate.”
Those volunteers include Vendetti Motors, who donated three school buses to transport volunteers, more than one hundred and fifty student volunteers recruited from across the Bellingham district, and donations of desserts and gifts from civic organizations, local businesses, and individuals.
“Since it’s inception in 1970, many of the original helpers are still with us, either preparing the food, making donations, wrapping gifts, or helping with the setup and cleanup,” Sue explained. “We see many 2nd and 3rd generation volunteers attending and remarking to us that their parents and grandparents helped out years ago.”
Staff at the Developmental Center prepared a macaroni dinner with the assistance of volunteers, and DJ Richie Hayward again donated his time to entertain the crowd. The Bellingham High School jazz band provided a festive atmosphere while residents waited for the arrival of Santa, a highlight of the evening.
The Bellingham High Jazz Band performs for residents at annual Wrentham Developmental Center Christmas party.
Thanks to the generosity of the community, Santa was able to hand out numerous gifts for each resident, personalized for each of their needs and wants.
Every year the party continues to grow beyond the Ranieris’ greatest expectations, and thanks to the generosity of the Ranieri family and the event’s many volunteers, this year saw another successful event for both residents and volunteers alike.