WELLSVILLE - The group Eyes on Wellsville held a Christmas party for village children and teens at the Wellsville Elks Lodge 1040 on Saturday. The celebration was the second in a series of monthly youth events that the group began hosting at the lodge on Riverside Avenue last month.
As with the first outing in November, a kid-friendly movie was the main attraction this time, a double-feature of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Children also enjoyed making a decorative tree ornament to keep, and there were hot dogs and other refreshments. Every child also received a small Christmas gift, all free of charge.
According to group member Karenna Tice Harty, it's a central part of Eyes on Wellsville's mission to positively intervene in the lives of the village's young people. Along with organizations like Enough Is Enough, the group is dedicated to halting the spread of drug abuse, which has brought so much personal destruction to the area in recent years.
Aaron Frank, 6, raised his hand with a question for Wellsville Police Officer Joseph Saraniti about his K-9 partner, Chief, at the Christmas celebration held by Eyes on Wellsville at the Elks Lodge 1040 in the village on Saturday. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
The Saturday matinees the group has planned aim at providing safe, fun activities for children in their spare time. "We're trying to give the kids something constructive to do outside of school," Harty said. Beyond fun, however, the group's core message of drug awareness is always woven into the program. She says the aim is to equip children early in life to make better choices before it's too late.
"I can't save everybody, but if I save one, I've done my job," Harty said.
Delivering that message this time around were Wellsville Police Officer Joseph Saraniti and his K-9 partner, Chief. Saraniti introduced Chief to the children and parents in attendance, explaining what Chief's role is in the department, demonstrating how the dog finds drugs and answering any questions from those in attendance.
Saraniti fielded numerous questions before welcoming them to come up and pet Chief, who seemed to appreciate the attention as much as the kids. "We try to make it fun, but so that they're still learning," Harty said. She credited the Elks with helping in the effort, by hosting the events and donating drug-awareness pamphlets and bookmarkers, which are distributed to the children.
Harty says Eyes on Wellsville will continue with similar programs on the first Saturday of each month resuming in February through the spring and summer with outdoor activities in the warmer weather. Though the events are aimed at ages 4 to 18, parents are always welcome, too.
She hopes to get high school students involved to help with the younger children, as well as learn something along the way. "We, as the adults of the group, want to mentor the older kids," Harty said. "It would help all age groups."