DETROIT — From beginning to end, it was a morning filled with joy.

Joy in the smiles of mothers and their children who need a helping hand. Joy on the faces of more than 60 A Time to Help volunteers who succeeded in making Saturday’s (Dec. 14) annual SAY Detroit Christmas Party for clients of the Salvation Army Harbor Light a magical holiday event.

Hosted by SAY Detroit founder Mitch Albom and his WJR (760 AM) radio show co-host Ken Brown, the three-hour party brightened the day for dozens of children and their mothers. The Salvation Army estimated attendance at more than 200.

“This was great,” said Capt. Jamie Winkler as he stood in the gym at Harbor Light, which was transformed into a winter wonderland filled with music, dancing, face painting, balloon twisting, caricature drawings — and a surprise visit by Santa. “I really think it might be the best one ever.’’

Colorful balloon displays donated by ATTH volunteer Lisa Neal the day before at the decorating event added to the festive feel that led visitors down the main hallway and to the activity areas hosting a magic room, arts and crafts, and a Relaxation Zone for mothers to get their nails done and receive massages.

“The Salvation Army Christmas Party is one event that we look forward to all year,” said Ruma Barua, a longtime ATTH volunteer with her husband Dave Barua. “I have been involved in it from the very beginning. To see the joy and excitement on the children’s faces as Mitch announces Santa’s arrival never fails to touch my heart and invariably brings tears of joy to my eyes and a lump in my throat.

“I thank Mitch and his team for what he does, and especially for giving us the opportunity to give back to our community.”

SAY Detroit is grateful to all the ATTH volunteers who hosted the party and donated clothing for the mothers and their children. The nonprofit is also thankful for party sponsors that donated toys and other items to fill gift bags for the children including R1RCM’s Transcription Department, the Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, Associated Podiatrists, Meijer, Plex Systems and Costco. 

Special thanks to Peter Andoni and Shield’s Pizza for sponsoring the luncheon; Paul Palazzolo (for ice cream – and beyond!); Elaine Marion, director of shelter operations at Booth’s women and children family shelter (we love you!), Adelle Fant and Nancy “Bubbles the Clown’’ Opatich (our face painter and balloon twister); Vince Cracchiolo (caricatures), Isabella Cracchiolo (magic); Nina Militello (arts and crafts), Lyn Austin (massages); Megan Powers (manicures); Seth Fisher (photos), and Joan and Craig Brown for spinning the holiday tunes. 

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