A time to dance, a time to hug

Santa Claus was busy giving out hugs Sunday afternoon for the annual Civitan Christmas party.

The event, along with the spring prom dance, is one of the ways Fort Dodge’s Civitan club serves physically and mentally disabled people in the area.

This year, 150 clients from the Fort Dodge area and Humboldt came to visit Santa, sample Christmas cookies, and dance with their friends, said Civitan President Nancy Leo.

“That’s higher than last year,” Leo said.

The club was formed 45 years ago, and has been doing the Christmas party for at least 28 years, she said. The party started at 3 p.m. at Ride’s Ballroom, with JAMM to the Music providing a mix of holiday tunes, country and the Macarena to get the clients dancing.

“They look forward to it every year,” said John Rutledge, a personal service provider from Eagle Grove’s group home.

Rutledge went over the contents of the gift bag from Santa: popcorn, a holiday scarf, pop, and necessities like shampoo and soap.

Many seemed just as interested in the hug and photo op.

For Jessie Thede, this year’s party was a day for family and friends.

“She loves it. She asks her aunt to come every time,” said Jessie’s mother Lori Thede. “Her cousin came this time too. It’s a family deal.”

The Thedes have been coming for about three years now, ever since they heard about it from some other parents.

“She lives at home, and we didn’t know about this before,” Lori Thede said. “She likes to come see her friends. The kids she graduated with.”

The Fort Dodge Civitan Club has 26 members, and meets each Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Zakeers.