Rich Simon, the community relations officer in the 7th Police District, has attended and helped organize the annual holiday party for the Fox Chase Champions for nine years at Knowlton Mansion.
The Fox Chase Champions, in existence for a quarter-century, is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that offers bowling, baseball and indoor and outdoor soccer to Philadelphia-area young people ages 3 to 23 with special needs, all at no cost to participants.
Dozens of area athletes last week celebrated the holidays with Santa Claus, the Phillie Phanatic and the Bumper T Caring Clowns.
“The day after the party, they can’t wait to come back the following year. They love the Phanatic, Santa, the clowns and the mansion,” Simon said.
Capt. Joseph Zaffino, commander of the 7th district, has
been involved with the party the last four years and enjoys the reactions of the young people.
“When Santa came in, they went crazy,” he said. “They look forward to this all year long, and so do we. It’s a great event.”
The 7th district has held a holiday party for more than three decades. The party had been held at the long-gone Bavarian Club, Arthur’s Catering and Shriners Hospital for Children on Roosevelt Boulevard.
Today, Knowlton Mansion and Conroy Catering owner Jack Conroy open the mansion doors for the festivities. The dining room area was decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths and lights, and poinsettias served as the centerpieces on tables.
“It’s great,” Conroy said. “The employees are into it. There’s never a lack of volunteerism.”
The Champions had a great time, dressing up for the occasion and enjoying the sounds of a disc jockey. They danced to a Grease medley and did the Macarena, Electric Slide and Mummers Strut.
Silly Reba created balloon art, and fellow clowns Cookie, Rainbow and Dr. I.M. Dandee — a “laffologist” — entertained the crowd.There was a buffet lunch — highlighted by Chickie’s & Pete’s crab fries — with cake, cookies and freshly popped popcorn for dessert. TD Bank provided reindeer hats and coloring books for all guests.
The Phanatic was a hit with all of the Phillies fans, who sat on the floor in front of Santa Claus as he distributed presents. Some also received trophies for the recently completed soccer season.
The police officials and Champions founding president Matt McDonald thanked the Conroy staff for their hospitality. McDonald and Conroy know each other from the neighborhood, and convincing the businessman to host the party and provide food was an easy sell.
“He’s very good with the kids,” McDonald said.
The organizers also thanked the 15 or so local businesses that donated money and gifts to make the party as special as possible.
The Champions staff believe the organization’s activities improve motor skills, build self-esteem, offer a sense of accomplishment and promote teamwork.
“The kids are awesome,” McDonald said.
The party is a great way for the Champions to celebrate another banner season. “It’s a great day,” McDonald said. “It’s all about them having fun. They have a great time. They get presents. The Phanatic is wonderful. And the 7th district brings it all together.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org