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Area children, adults revel in holiday cheer at annual Special Needs Apostolate Christmas party
Ava Oglesby, center, meets Santa during the Special Needs Apostolate’s Dec. 17 Christmas-themed fun night at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church. - photo by Julia Hansen

During the Special Needs Apostolate’s second annual Christmas party, area locals joyfully partook in holiday festivities culminating in a much-anticipated visit from the man in the red suit himself, Santa Claus.

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The apostolate hosted the Dec. 17 fun night at Higgins Hall within Dawson County’s Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church.

Starting 10 years ago, two of the church’s attendees, Tony and Anne Marcini, began working with other congregants and area community members to start the group.
Over time, interest and participation grew for the group’s gatherings, which have included up to 50 people and typically include about 20 regular participants.

The apostolate is open to community people of all disability levels, ages and denominations as a way for participants to have fun in a safe environment, Tony Marcini said. 

Between 20-30 participants, their friends and families came out to Saturday’s holiday party, which included free holiday treats along with familiar games like cornhole and basketball. 

Teen volunteers and father Anthony Wagner watch as Steve Wagner, center right, helps a friend of his grandson, Damien, fish for toys at one party game booth. - photo by Julia Hansen

At one of the game booths, attendees went fishing and caught  ever-portable Hot Wheels toy cars. 

Then, everyone could share in festive dancing to tunes such as “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” 

With the aid of holiday helpers, Santa arrived at the church around 7:30 p.m., bringing holiday cheer and heartfelt gift bags to the room of giddy participants. 

While some children were a little timid to greet old St. Nick, others jumped at the chance to tell him their Christmas wishes, from smaller toys to gaming systems. 

Gemma Wagner, left, tells Santa and one of his helpers what she would like for Christmas during the jolly man’s visit to the apostolate’s holiday party. - photo by Julia Hansen

Each attendee was also given a “Special Needs Apostolate” ornament to commemorate the Christmas event. 


Marcini explained that he and other congregants are still working on building a sensory space for special needs members in the church’s lower-floor Life Teen room. The room will include features like crash pads and special calming devices.

Starting this spring, Marcini said the church intends to hold 9 a.m. Masses on the first Sundays of each month. The Masses will be live streamed in the sensory room, and communion will be brought down to people in the room.

“It’s a way for families who might come to church separately because they've got someone at home they need to be with,” Marcini said. “Hopefully, we will be able to provide an environment where the entire family can come to church.” 

The Special Needs Apostolate will host its next game night on Feb. 11 at the church. 

For more information or further questions about the apostolate, contact Tony Mancini at 770-403-4580 or by emailing