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December 23, 2009
Father Woody party gives 3,400 people a meal, gifts and Christmas cheer
By John Gleason
On Dec. 20 some 3,400 needy people gathered for the annual Father Woody Christmas party held at the Sheraton Downtown Denver hotel.
The party, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver, The Daniels Fund, Holy Ghost Parish, Regis University and the Sheraton, featured a turkey dinner with all the fixings, entertainment, gifts, holiday cheer and companionship for many who otherwise might not have a Christmas. It is named for the late Msgr. C.B. “Father Woody” Woodrich, a staunch advocate for the poor and homeless.
Hundreds of people began lining up around the hotel in the pre-dawn hours for the opportunity for the event, which for the children included a visit with Santa. Also on hand were Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Regis University president Father Michael Sheeran, S.J., Holy Ghost pastor, Father Thomas Carzon, O.M.V. and Father John Lager, O.F.M. Cap. and seminarians.
Entertainment was provided by the musical group the Skyliners and Swingtime, a multi-generational accordion group.
The party is the result of many hours of work by volunteers, according to Victoria McCabe, director of commitment at Regis University and an organizer of the party.
“You could call this a year-round event rather than annual,” she said. “It seems like we no sooner finish one party when we’re on with planning the next. The students, alumni, teachers and all the volunteers are sustaining the spirit and the love to make this happen.”
Everyone who attends the party receives a wrapped Christmas gift; children get two, one being a toy. Father Woody believed that people shouldn’t just receive a gift, but that it should be wrapped, said McCabe. She added that the volunteers realize the significance of the event for its guests.
“It’s important the party continue in Father Woody’s spirit,” McCabe said.
“We live in a time that more than ever requires a giving spirit—the love and compassion that this event embodies,” she added. “Our volunteers ensure that happens.”
Among the first inside the door were sisters, Marie and Angelica, who said they were looking forward to meeting Santa more than eating.
“I’m going to tell Santa he can bring me a baby doll,” said 5-year-old Marie. “It’s all I want.”
Angelica, 7, said she wanted a soccer ball so she could practice her kicks.
Parents Louise and Juan said the wait wasn’t too long, even though they arrived at the hotel five hours before the doors opened.
“It was cold, but not too cold,” Juan said.
As trays of food were brought from the kitchen, one of the volunteers, Stefan Neikes paused to look over the many guests who were seated and ready for a meal.
“This is a good thing to be a part of,” he said. “This is a wonderful way to celebrate the Advent season.”