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<<Back to Issue February Volume # 77
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Christmas Party for Our Friends With Special Needs: Humans Weren't The Only Helpers

By Kelly Terlizzi '11 & Frank DiRico '12

One of the greatest events at Prep is its annual Christmas Party for the Elderly and Disabled. At this party, which is organized by Mrs. Camus and Mrs. Rich, hundreds of people gather on a Saturday in December to celebrate the holiday, but more importantly, to be in the company of others. Early in the morning, students set up tables full of corn muffins, rolls, and other breakfast foods for the guests. Students line up by the door and sing Christmas carols to welcome the guests as they arrive. It’s a fun day for everyone, especially the guests who normally spend most of their time in a nursing home. A DJ and performances by step squad, the dance team, and the orchestra make the day an even greater one. Lunch is provided, and the party ends at about 4 PM, but the guests do not leave empty handed. Everyone receives gifts donated by students in addition to a prize if they won one of the raffles.

This year, students were not the only ones helping out. There was another, rather lovable volunteer there as well: a small dog named Sammy. Sammy is a 5 year old West Highland White Terrier that is also a certified therapy dog. What is a “therapy dog,” some of you may ask? A therapy dog is a canine that is specifically trained, tested and then certified to go to places such as retirement homes, hospitals and parties for elderly people to comfort them in whatever way a dog can. Sammy did just that when he came to the party. Some people truly loved Sammy, and enjoyed petting him and watching him do his tricks. Other people weren’t exactly dog lovers, so Sammy would just say “hello” and go on his way. (I’m not joking; he was actually trained to say hello, though you need a good ear to hear it.) For a breed that was originally bred to hunt vermin, Sammy actually has a calm personality, so it’s quite amazing that he was able to become a therapy dog. Currently, Sammy works at St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital and Parker Geriatric with his handler, Patricia DiRico. Sammy has been certified since he was one year old. He loves to go to work and gets very excited when he sees his Therapy Dog vest come out of the closet. When he isn’t working he enjoys life at home with his owners, the DiRico family: Patricia, Frank, Frank Jr., Nick and his half-brother Oliver (another Westie).