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Northeast News

University area seniors get Christmas in July


Published:   |   Updated: July 25, 2013 at 02:03 PM

UNIVERSITY AREA - Most moms, dads and kids seem to revel in the joy of the December holiday season.

However, that's not always the case for the elderly, whose families may be miles apart or who might not quite get into the Christmas cheer.

But, listen up, older folk. There is a midyear holiday happening that's meant to honor you.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, a free event for those 50 and older, will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, July 26, in the gym at the University Area Community Center, 14013 N. 22nd St., Tampa.

It's being presented by Yes! of America United, a Tampa Bay area-based nonprofit organization focused on creating an all-inclusive community; and Caregiver's Helping Hand, a not-for-profit group bent on bridging the gap between young people and the aged.

Becki Forsell founded Yes! of America United as a result of her involvement in the Holiday Smiles project in which she and other volunteers visit people in nursing homes and hospitals at Christmastime.

For this event she is working closely Richedean Hills-Ackbar, founder of Caregiver's Helping Hand.

With District 3 Hillsborough County Commissioner Lee Miller as its host, the event will feature vendors and representatives from several senior-related agencies to help educate and distribute literature about the county's many resources.

McDonald's will provide lunch and attendees will also be treated to ice cream sundaes.

Also slated to be on tap for the Christmas in July celebration is deejay Jeremy "Elvis" Ewbank, who will play music for a sock hop and some other tunes for listening and dancing; and singer Kathy McGuire, who with her powerful voice frequently performs what she refers to as "music with a message" at various charitable events throughout the community.

And don't forget, of course, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, portrayed by Pam Pepin, daughter of the late philanthropist Art Pepin and wife, Polly; and Bill Cheeseman, a member of the Palm Tree Santa organization, a Florida-based bearded gentlemen's organization known for bringing cheer to people of all ages.

"We do this because Santa is a symbol of happiness and it seems like seniors are often forgotten," said Pepin, whose two grown daughters often dress as elves and accompany the duo during their appearances, which are mainly at area senior centers and schools.

Cheeseman, who noted he met Pepin when they worked together years ago as Hillsborough County paramedics, said it especially warms his heart when he can put smiles on the faces of seniors.

"I remember one woman in a nursing home who hadn't spoken for a year but when she saw me her face lit up and she called me 'Santa,'" Cheeseman said.

Call (813) 379-8966 to reserve a seat. Space is limited.

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