LEWISTON – The Knights of Columbus Council 106, East Avenue, held the annual Christmas party on Dec. 13 for residents in the community who have developmental disabilities. This year 250 attended.

The party is a tradition started many years ago by the parents of young people whose children were unable and ineligible to attend public schools because of their special needs. The parents appealed to the city for the use of an empty school on the comer of East Avenue and Sabattus Street. The parents operated the school and were able to hire a licensed teacher.

As the school outgrew the space of the Garcelon School, the L and A Association raised the funds to purchase a home on Madison Street, Auburn, which became the school for many years.

The special needs population continued to grow, but funding didn’t, so the association made the decision to consolidate existing local groups into one, which became Pathways. The school continued to operate until the local school districts took over special education.

During the years of its existence, parents at the school organized the Christmas party. Grace Simard and Mary Jane Cote organized the party and funded it with a raffle and private donations.

A large hall was necessary to accommodate the people, and the Knights of Columbus donated the use of their hall for the occasion.

On June 13, 1981, Jim Collins, a parent of one of the participants and a member of the Council 106, had a heart attack at the event and died. Fellow Knights decided to establish a memorial fund in his memory – the Jim Collins Fund for the Mentally Retarded.

As the fund grew, the Knights took over the Christmas party and have done so for the past two decades. A chairman, committee members and wives spend the afternoon preparing supper.

With a grand entrance by Santa Claus, each handicapped person is given gifts. Dancing is held, with music provided by a disc jockey.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.