Holiday Season at the Center

The holiday season is always a busy time as well as a family time, and it’s no different with our Colorado Center for the Blind family.

Two people roll cookie dough into balls
Travel Instructor Steve Patten always volunteers to take a hand helping with Christmas cookies. He and student Natalya look sharp in matching red aprons.

While many were preoccupied with Cyber Monday, we brought in our tree and decorated it in the meeting room. Cookies were baking in all three ovens in the kitchen. Even Travel Instructor Steve Patten donned a red apron to help out. Meanwhile, out at the front desk, Robert solemnly presided over the drawing of names for the Secret Santa exchange as he does each year.

One of the most popular activities every year is led by Senior Services Director Duncan Larsen – she teaches any who want to try how to string popcorn and cranberries, which of course encircle the finished tree – though not so much as half of the popcorn popped gets onto the tree. It’s a mystery where the rest goes.

In December there are always a number of graduations. This of course means big graduation meals, the bittersweet “so longs” to friends and mentors, but it also means that we’re out and about anywhere in the Denver Metro area for Monster Route parties.

A smiling woman displays items she is about to deliver
Vicki took toys and more to Littleton Adventist Hospital’s Children’s Ward, and to Children’s Hospital South Campus in Highlands Ranch as part of her Monster Route. She met with volunteer coordinators at both hospitals and told them about the Center.

The Monster Route consists of going to four places never visited before in four Metro cities, and this year two of Vicki’s sites are hospitals, where she’ll deliver toys, coloring books and crayons to the children’s wards. All the items are from donations from the Center and others – $225 in total! Every year Toys for Tots has a box in our lobby for us to fill, and they’ve already whisked it away.

Our staff and students always give of themselves each year. Tragically, our student Yasin’s mother was killed in a car accident over the Thanksgiving break, and his 17-year-old sister spent a week in the hospital. Though only 23 himself, he is now the guardian for his sister and 12-year-old brother. Our students and staff members have contributed nearly $1000 to help Yasin and his siblings, and there is a GoFundMe page for Yasin as well.

Baking, baking baking! Cookies, brownies, fudge and more! Students prepare and bake all manner of special holiday treats for a week after Thanksgiving. Then they are arranged on platters and wrapped in colorful foil and delivered to the Cities of Centennial and Littleton as our token of thanks – we love our community and they repay us with affection and respect!

There are also plenty of youth and senior activities to which Independence Training Program students give of their time. This year a group of students formed themselves into a choir, for example, and they led Christmas carols at the annual Senior Holiday party on December 11. The next day was a FAST Saturday (Fun Activities and Skills Training) for youth, and many students were there as volunteers, along with a number of staff members and even CCB alums. The kids did crafts, wrapped gifts and baked cookies.

Oh yeah, somewhere in the middle of all this is at least one more party – the NFB of Denver Chapter party attended by many CCB students, including a white elephant exchange and more carols, not to mention holiday eats.

We manage to get a little exercise to counteract all of this food, in case the reader is worried. The Urban Adventures program with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) had our students going out for boxing and Progresh fun, not to mention the NSCD Moves obstacle course. In fact, some of our staff and students were seen on 9News, the local NBC station running the course on Colorado Gives Day. We also had yoga and cardio dance classes once a week after the regular school day.

And suddenly it’s Friday and the final holiday breakfast.  The Secret Santa excitement has been building for three weeks by now, with the fun of giving and the excitement of a surprise enlivening each day.  Students have been preparing breakfast burritos and baked French toast and a lot more, freezing them since Thanksgiving.  Sometime after 9 everything is set out for our last gathering of the year.  We have a brunch buffet with the tree lit and the final Secret Santa gifts piled beneath.  A couple of elves call out names from the packages, gifts are opened one by one, and recipients get three guesses at the identity of their Secret Santa before the secret is revealed.
All this takes a couple of hours, and then it’s time to clean up and – alas – take down the tree and pack up the decorations and make a final round of hugs and holiday wishes before students head back to the apartments or the airport, and staff leave for our own Christmas breaks with our “other” families, or to finally get started with the rest of our holiday shopping.

“… and to all, a Good Night!”

Two young women manage gifts beneath a lighted tree
Braille Instructor Jen Spears and student Tabea served as the elves at the Christmas brunch, passing out the Secret Santa gifts from beneath the tree.

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