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If the spirit of giving is the hallmark of the holiday season, then the holidays are celebrated every day by the staff of School 84, which serves the disabled. The gifts that the staff gives are those that care for the human condition, nourish the spirit and sustain the heart.

They are the smiles of encouragement for the child first using a walker. They are the words of support for the child disheartened by an inability to speak. They are the gentle hands of guidance assisting a child to eat.

They are the patience to hold back when a child is frustrated by a new task. They are the tears of joy when a child accomplishes a goal no one thought could be accomplished. They are the laughter of a shared joke; the concern about a lingering illness; the sorrow about a life too brief. They are the love that fills the halls and permeates the classrooms.

Patricia Balcerzak
Principal, School 84

Each holiday season, The News offers our community the opportunity to learn about families in need through The News Neediest Fund. We at the Clarkson Center refer families for these stories each year. It never fails to amaze me how very generous Western New Yorkers are. Our families have received food, clothing, toys, furniture and even job offers. I have lived in many parts of the country, but I have never lived in a more generous and caring community. I am so very proud to say I live in Western New York.

Kenneth H. Cowdery
President, Clarkson Center

My 13-year-old son, Eric, never had the opportunity to have a dad. His father died before he was born, in an automobile accident.

About two years ago, I contacted the Big Brother program. Joe Pupsch, his caseworker, came to our house. We learned that because of a shortage of Big Brothers, there would be quite a wait. In the meantime, Eric became part of a group of boys who would meet every two weeks and do things like play football, go to the movies or just hang out and play video games. The Big Brother to this group, Justin Zappia, was great. Not only did he and Joe help the kids by giving them someone to do "boy" things with, but they also helped by talking to me and giving me peace of mind.

Just last month, I received the call I had been waiting so long for. Eric had a match and finally his own Big Brother. I could only cry. Neil, Eric's new Big Brother, is great. When he first came over he was a little nervous, but I informed him that he was now a member of our family.

Neil took Eric to his first Bills football game. Eric was so excited. He couldn't wait for the day to come. Afterward, all he could do was talk about the great time that he had had, even though they were very cold. Neil comes over, and sometimes they just hang out and talk or play video games. Neil will also be joining us for the holidays since he has a new extended family.

It is so good to see my son smile and laugh. His outlook has changed. He gets so excited when Neil or Joe calls. I don't know what I would have done if there weren't programs out there for kids like my son.

Dawn H. Voit

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