Youth from Rocky River Church in Concord launch season helping child patients

Sarah Goodwin, 15, a member of The Flood Student Ministries, applied glue to a Christmas ornament in the shape of a snowflake when 4-year-old Kinley Stiles asked whether Goodwin could help her make one.

“Yes,” Goodwin said with a big smile, and showed Kinley the ornaments and designs she could select.

Kinley picked out a shiny red ball and asked Goodwin to make a heart shape. Kinley covered the heart in red glitter to complete the decoration.

Goodwin and other youth from the Rocky River Church at 887 Pitts School Road S.W. in Concord were volunteering at the Mecklenburg Shrine Club’s Santa Day on Dec. 7.

Santa Day started in 1986, when the Shrine Club invited about 100 pediatric patients of the Shrine hospitals to have their picture taken with Santa, receive a gift, play games, create crafts, have lunch and share fellowship with the Shriners’ families.

For many of those children, the now-annual event is the highlight of the Christmas season.

Colton Daniels, 6, of Kannapolis has cerebral palsy. He has attended the event for the past four years, but was always a little scared of Santa.

Excited about this year’s event, Colton said, “I’m gonna be brave this year for Santa.” He was, as he had his picture made with Santa for the first time.

Afterward, Colton played games and even shot some basketball as his grandfather Roger Pokojski held him up above the youth volunteers’ heads at the Sharp Shooter game, staffed by Nick Davis, 11.

Jason Hill, pastor to students at Rocky River Church (not to be confused with other, older local churches with similar names), spoke about the youth involvement.

“They have the heart for helping kids that just don’t have as much as they do,” Hill said. “It humbles them to see kids that don’t always get what they want, and they see that they should be grateful for what they have.”

Three years ago, Hill said, church member Alice Weathers asked whether the youth could help at Santa Day. The group gladly joined in the effort. Starting with about a dozen volunteers the first year, it has grown to the point where Hill and youth leader Nick Hudson brought 22 members to help this year.

Taylor Goodwin, 17, volunteered last year and wanted to come back. “I got to meet a lot of children. Just seeing their smiles on their faces, it made my heart so warm inside. It felt so great to help,” she said.

Annie Britz, 17, was here for her second year as well. “I love Christmas. I love that you get to talk to the kids and talk with them about Jesus and talk about what they want for Christmas,” she said.

Hill said, “There are other organizations out there that need help, too. I encourage people to help others at Christmastime and even during the year. All year round that is what Jesus calls us to do.

“God calls us to help people in need, and that is what we are doing.”

This year Santa Day served about 65 children with the help of many volunteers, including The Flood Student Ministries.