ROCKWELL, NC (WBTV) - From Nazareth Child & Family Connection: A little snow … well actually a lot of snow … in the forecast can’t take the fun out of a Christmas party, especially when that party is for the 50 or so residents and clients of Nazareth Child & Family Connection.
Led by Bikers with a Cause, over 400 people showed up at the Nazareth campus Saturday to make sure the young residents have a joyous Christmas. Most of those 400 brought gifts for individuals, made a monetary donation, or served as volunteers for the Christmas party.
The Nazareth residents all submitted wish lists several weeks ago. By Saturday when a large group of motorcycles roared onto the Nazareth campus, everyone of those lists had been filled. The gifts were wrapped and waiting to be handed out.
Even with impending wintery weather it was the largest gathering in the almost 30-year history of the event.
Darby Dillard is the Santa with an unusual beard who coordinates the entire event, which saw at least 100 volunteers in action Saturday and enough food to feed a traditional Christmas dinner to 400.
Dillard became interested in the event shortly after he developed a life-threatening auto-immune disease in 2005. He didn’t get back on his feet until 2007 and that’s when he and his wife Betty joined the annual gift-giving toy run to Rockwell. The next year the event was in danger of going away because the coordinator was ill. Darby stepped forward and took over in 2008 and it’s been rolling under his guidance ever since.
“We hadn’t gotten a notice for the ride that year, so we called up here and they said it wasn’t going to happen,” Darby recalled, who is from Mint Hill. “I called back and said I’ve got time on my hands. I kind of picked it up and it’s evolved into this.”
Even though it began as a toy drive for bikers in the 1980s, and remains centered on the bike ride, the support comes from an eclectic group of people. On Saturday there were church groups, young beauty queens, youth softball teams, a gospel band, and lots of other folks who just wanted to pitch in.
“This is not just me and my wife,” said Dillard. “It’s a lot of people who put this on. I’d like to tell you I’m smart enough and just handle it all on my own, but that’s not it. All of these folks here, they’ll see an email or a post about something we need, and they’ll pick it up without hesitation.”
Vernon Walters watched with amazement as Saturday’s event unfolded. He’s the CEO and President of Nazareth Child & Family Connection and he quietly spent time thanking many of those involved.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” said Walters. “So many of our clients are going to have a Christmas they would have never experienced because of all these folks. And it’s more than that. They get to see what can happen when people come together to work for their community.”
Those contributing to Saturday’s event included A-1 Petroleum, Bob Kearny, Burn Work-out, Cases with a Cause, Cabarrus County Sheriffs Department, Dent-B-Gone, Full Throttle Magazine, Hair Artistry, Law Petroleum, M&M Landscaping, Power Fanatic Mustang Club of Monroe, Queen City Challengers, Raising Glory, Smiley’s of Rockwell, Speedway Harley Davidson, Charlotte Vulcan Riders, Uptown Catering, William Douglas Management, Swarm Shank Under-8 softball team.