Park City Sunrise Rotary Club makes it a Christmas to remember |

Park City Sunrise Rotary Club makes it a Christmas to remember

Annual party provides gifts to more than 500 underserved children

A boy plays a game at the Sunrise Rotary Clubs holiday party for children.
(Photo by Pam Woll)

It’s become one of Jim Whitney’s most treasured holiday traditions.

Each year, he mans the cupcake walk at the Park City Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual holiday party for underserved children in Park City. This year, he was once again reminded why it’s so important.

“There were two boys who came up right away, and they were like, ‘Ok, when are we starting?’” he said. “I asked, ‘Do you guys know how this works?’ One of them looked at me and went, ‘Yeah, of course I do. I’ve been doing this all my life.’”

The two boys were far from the only children to have their Christmas wishes fulfilled at the party, which was held Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Park City High School. Whitney said the Rotary Club handed out gifts to 525 children, who were eager to sit on the lap of Santa Claus and revel in the festive atmosphere.

Like each year, watching the children put things into perspective for Whitney, the club’s spokesman and president-elect.

“They definitely get brushed under the carpet,” he said of Park City’s underserved population. “A lot of these kids, it’s just amazing — they will say to Santa that they are going to take the gift home and put it under the tree and wait until Christmas Day. This might be the only gift they get this year. It’s pretty heart-wrenching.

“It is really inspirational,” he added. “It’s moving and tear-jerking. They have such a great attitude, and they’re so polite.”

The holiday party’s roots formed nine winters ago when a group of Rotary Club members built a gazebo for some families in a Prospector apartment complex. Whitney said it soon morphed into what it is today, eventually growing into one of the club’s largest undertakings of the year — and an event on which families have come to rely.

In fact, some children who grew up going to the party now help staff it as volunteers. Many are members of the Park City High School Latinos in Action group.

“I think they really appreciate it,” he said. “Some of the older kids tell us, ‘My parents are so grateful for this assistance.’ It’s a really fun evening for the whole family. And a lot of the Latinos in Action kids say they are excited to volunteer and be on the giving end of the event. People really look forward to it.”

The party took on a particularly meaningful air this year. Whitney said attendance was slightly down compared to previous years, likely because some Hispanic families have been hesitant to engage in the community in light of the results of the presidential election.

At the party, the Rotary Club tried to make one message as clear as possible: Everyone, regardless of their heritage or background, is welcome in Park City. Making sure the area’s Hispanic population understands that, Whitney said, is one of the most important things Parkites can do this holiday season.

“I think events like this go a long way,” he said. “… We have to say to them, ‘We’re with you. We stand with you as community members, and this is a safe place. We will stand by you.’ We need to find more ways to integrate them and involve them.”

For more information about the Sunrise Rotary Club, visit

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