Legion Riders bring Christmas spirit to KCCS

DOVER — When it comes to making appearances before his big Christmas Eve journey, Santa Claus has been known to fly into shopping centers aboard helicopters, ride on holiday trains and even visit children on the back of firetrucks.

Students at the Kent County Community School got a different glimpse of Santa Claus on a chilly Wednesday morning as the jolly-bearded man in the bright-red suit arrived at the school on his sleigh behind a host of his two-wheeled friends from Dover’s Walter L. Fox Post 2 American Legion Riders

“Ho, ho, ho!,” exclaimed Santa Claus, also known as Bill White, upon his arrival to the group of adoring children, as he asked them, “Has everybody been good this year?,” while jingling his sleigh bells.

Santa took several pictures with the students outside, along with their teachers and families, and listened intently to all their wishes.

“Santa gets a warm feeling when my Riders come over here,” Mr. Claus (White) said, of the Kent County Community School. “We’ve been doing this for many years and this is a beautiful, beautiful place. Everybody’s nice and it’s a joy to get to come out here and see my kids.

“All of these kids have been good, and this is beautiful to be able to come to the school to see all the kids and all of the teachers. God bless all the good things they’re doing here.”

The Kent County Community School (KCCS), located adjacent to William Henry Middle School, serves students from ages three to 21 that have a variety of disabilities.

The school, along with the Capitol Delaware Autism Program, uses the cooperation of parents, students, school staff and community stakeholders to enhance the students’ opportunities and increase their level of independence and personal confidence in preparing them for their life transitions.

KCCS Principal Jim Mark took a moment to get out of the office and watch the Santa spectacle unfold both in front of and inside of the school’s lobby.

“I love it,” he said. “They’re very enthusiastic and (the Legion Riders) have been here before, as far back as I can remember. They love being around the kids and it’s great that they include our kids in this endeavor.

“I think the staff actually looks forward to it more than the students do because it’s very inclusive.”

It’s a rather slow and chilly 30-minute or so commute for the American Legion Riders after they take off from the North Pole (or Walter L. Fox Post 2 headquarters in south Dover).

After all, they have to make sure that Santa and his sleigh stay safe and intact – because he has a busy night coming up.

“It is the best feeling to see the faces of the kids when the motorcycles and Santa and his sleigh pull into the lot at the school,” said David Gryniewicz, assistant director for the Legion Riders.

The Legion Riders Chapter has been bringing Santa and his sleigh to visit the children at the Kent County Community School for 13 years.

The event was originally arranged by Nick and Gail Sellazzo, who have since retired from the school. Both are charter members of the American Legion Riders.

Mr. Sellazzo pulled Santa’s custom-made sleigh on Wednesday with his three-wheel motorcycle that he said kids often call “Barney,” due to its size and purple color.

“It was very chilly with a little bit of rain and a little bit of snow, but we made it,” Mr. Sellazzo said, with a grin, about his trip from the North Pole. “It was about a 45-minute ride, but it was just fine. I love it every year.”

It’s an invigorating experience for the students when the motorcycle crew comes rumbling towards the school near Christmastime each year.

“The excitement of the children is why we do it,” said Stephen ‘Skip’ Shappee, past commander, Rider director and current Legion Rider. “Sometimes the kids are more interested in the motorcycles than Santa, so we try to get as many Riders as possible to join us for this visit.

“It seems like it gets better every year. The kids really enjoy it and we do what we can to keep the kids happy.”

Santa Claus eventually went inside to the warmth of the lobby of the school where he met with many of the students and listened intently to all their wishes and took pictures with them before they were given a candy cane.

Even some teachers took the opportunity to whisper into Santa’s ear.

“I think it’s wonderful that (the American Legion Riders) come out and help with the community and when they come the children really look forward to it every year,” said Laura Hoffman, a kindergarten teacher for KCCS at Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

“It’s a wonderful event for the kids, the teachers and everybody.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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