Niagara Gazette — It is as much a part of the Falls’ Christmas traditions as brightly lit trees and lots of snow.
On Tuesday, city firefighters once again welcomed more than 200 seniors to the annual Toy Fund Holiday Dinner.
“It was a good time had by all,” said Fire Capt. John Castellani, the Toy Fund chairman. “There were smiles everywhere.”
Seniors from a half dozen local nursing and long-term care facilities were bused to the Niagara Falls Boulevard banquet room at Antonio’s Banquet & Conference Center and treated to a gala holiday dinner with all the trimmings.
That was followed by a sing-a-long, a little bit of dancing and, of course, a visit from Santa himself.
“There are lots of familiar faces that I see,” Castellani said, “Some folks have been coming to the dinner for a number of years and it’s always great to see the joy in their faces.”
Falls Firefighters Chris Finitz and Riske Sanabria were the dinner co-chairs and Castellani said they did incredible work to get the seniors to and from the banquet hall and provide them with a memorable holiday experience.
“They were excellent tacticians,” Castellani said with a laugh. “There’s a lot to coordinate with the facilities, with Antonio’s and making sure there are enough buses to get everyone picked up.”
The senior dinner is one of three signature events that the Toy Fund stages every year. The others are the distribution of toys to needy children and the purchase of warm winter clothing for low-income families. Castellani noted how the fund looks after both young and old.
“Those are the two segments of the Falls’ population that are the most vulnerable to not having a happy holiday season,” the Toy Fund chair said. “You know many of the seniors have lived her all their lives and celebrated, for decades, with their families here. Now we get the joy of giving them a wonderful holiday and seeing how much they enjoy it.”