SHEFFIELD LAKE — Fun awaits children and families this weekend when the third annual Christmas Party is held from 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday at Joyce Hanks Community Center, 4575 Lake Road. The party immediately follows the 5 p.m. arrival of Santa Claus and the center's Christmas tree lighting. Events are free and open to Sheffield Lake and Village families.
The party is possible through the efforts of 19-year old Sheffield Lake resident Julia Pyle, who recalls her family had to leave the city in search of holiday-themed activities for kids when she was growing up.
Pyle created and hosted the first-ever Christmas Party for Sheffield kids three years ago. It was part of the community-building work she did to earn a Gold Award from Girl Scouts. The Gold Award is the organization's highest award for making a difference in a Scout’s home community and beyond.
Besides photos with Santa and an array of kid-friendly activities like cookie decorating, a hot chocolate bar, writing letters to Santa, and ornament making, Pyle added several new features to this year's party.
Members of Brookside High School's marching band will play carols outside the center to greet Santa as he arrives on a fire truck to pull the switch to light the center's Christmas tree. Inside the center, BHS Interact Club members will do face-painting while Ward 2 councilman Rocky Radeff will pop popcorn and hand it out along with cotton candy to partygoers. Radeff, who also grew up in Sheffield Lake, serves as assistant prosecutor/law director for the city of Lorain and coaches basketball along with his city council duties. He said "being busy" is not an excuse. Radeff, one of seven children in his family, said his dad bought the cotton candy machine and popcorn popper for family celebrations.
"Sheffield Lake is my community and I love doing what I can to make the Christmas Party fun and special,” he said. “The Christmas season is about joy and giving. It's a time for everyone to be selfless, which is why helping with the party is a 'no brainer.’ "
Another new craft activity this year is making "reindeer food," which consists of oats and glitter. Pyle said, as a child, she made the mix after assurances from her mom that the sparkly concoction made it easier for Santa's reindeer to spot her house.
Pyle, now a college student studying human resources management, admits organizing the party is very time-consuming. Planning swings into gear in August when she begins to contact businesses and individuals for both cash and in-kind donations to cover expenses for decorations, food items and other supplies. She also wrangles more than a dozen gift baskets that are raffled off at the event with proceeds helping to defray expenses. By November, she spends a few hours each day tying down all the final details. "I really have to manage my time," she said, explaining she also works and is now in the throes of studying for semester exams.
She said several people have been mainstay supporters all three years of the event. These include her mom, her former Troop leader, and good friends. In addition, Sheffield Lake Firefighters Association has been a regular financial supporter of the event as well as her former teacher at Elyria Catholic High School, Kevin Juguilon, who supplies hundreds of sugar cookies for kids to decorate.
Radeff is grateful for Pyle's commitment. "She gives her time and energy into making the party memorable,” he said. “She does it solely out of her kind heart and expects nothing in return. She is very young and it's great to see her level of buy-in because we are going to need young people to get involved for the future of the city."
While there is no charge to attend, Pyle asks community members to bring a non-perishable food item to the party. Food is donated to the Emergency Food Pantry run by the Lorain County Office on Aging and housed at Hanks Community Center.