Sunrise Rotary Club spreads the holiday cheer | ParkRecord.com

Sunrise Rotary Club spreads the holiday cheer

For Jim Whitney, the best part is seeing the children’s faces light up when they realize they can have more than one cupcake.

Whitney, a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club who serves as the organization’s spokesman, works the cupcake walk of the club’s annual holiday party for underprivileged children in Park City. The cupcake walk is played like musical chairs, and the winner gets a plate of the delectable desserts. The reactions of the kids are priceless.

"Especially the little ones, the look on their faces is just pure amazement," Whitney said. "They expect that maybe they get to take one cupcake, but we tell them they can take the whole plate and they’re just blown away."

Sunrise Rotary held its latest holiday party Tuesday at Park City High School, and there were more happy children than ever. The event brings together roughly 600 underprivileged kids from Park City for a night of celebration, games and gift giving.

Each member of the club donates about 10 gifts that cost $10 to $15 each. At the party, the gifts are sorted by which gender and age range they’re meant for, and Santa Claus gives each child one. It’s astounding to see how much the presents mean to the children, Whitney said.

"Some of these kids open the gifts right away — others really cling to them because for a lot of them it’s the only wrapped gift they’re going to get for Christmas," he said. "They take it home, put it under the tree and save it for Christmas morning."

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The event started small nearly a decade ago. Whitney estimated the first party served about 25 children. At that time, he and many others involved had no idea of the size of the population that was in need of the club’s help. As the event has grown, so has the club members’ understanding of how important the efforts are.

"There is a very large community of these underserved, lower-income Hispanic families," Whitney said. "There are so many kids who need something like this."

Whitney added that it’s been gratifying to watch the event grow into something that many families count on every year. For some families, it’s become one of the most important nights of the year.

"They are immensely grateful," Whitney said. "Many times, you see a mom or a mom and dad come in with three or four kids. They’re not looking for handouts, but they are so grateful to have this to go to. I think they really look forward to it, and I know the kids really look forward to it."