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Aurora Noon Lions Club offers Santa visit for hearing impaired

Santa (Dan Basalone of Lisle), seated, uses American Sign Language to "talk" to a child at a holiday pizza party for area hearing-impaired children and caregivers Thursday. From left are Aurora Noon Lions Club member Dick Schindel, Aurora; Lion Kathie Long, Aurora; and Lion Jerry Spirk, Sugar Grove, club president.  The Aurora Noon Lions and Northwestern Illinois Association of Sycamore, a regional special-education cooperative, sponsored the fifth annual party at Luigi's Pizza in Aurora. Guests included students, teachers and parents from East Aurora School District 131 and West Aurora School District 129. |  Courtesy of Al Benson
Jeanne McDonald of Naperville helps Dan Basalone of Lisle get ready in his Santa costume.  |  David Sharos~For Sun-Times Media
Alivia Adamczyk (left) and her mother, Delannie, of Batavia get ready to talk to Santa.  |  David Sharos~For Sun-Times Media
Ashley Mack-Cruz of Aurora (left) and her mother, Lisa, came to see Santa Wednesday night in Aurora.  |  David Sharos~For Sun-Times Media
Auroran William Adamczyk, 7, right, uses American Sign Language to "talk" to Santa (Dan Basalone of Lisle) at a holiday pizza party for area hearing-impaired children and caregivers Thursday. The Aurora Noon Lions Club and Northwestern Illinois Association of Sycamore, a regional special-education cooperative, sponsored the fifth annual party at Luigi's Pizza in Aurora. Guests included students, teachers and parents from East Aurora School District 131 and West Aurora School District 129.  |  Courtesy of Al Benson
Santa (Dan Basalone of Lisle), left, uses American Sign Language to "talk" to Aurorans Brad Pritts, center, and his daughter, Micaela, 5, at a holiday pizza party for area hearing-impaired children and caregivers Thursday. The Aurora Noon Lions Club and Northwestern Illinois Association of Sycamore, a regional special-education cooperative, sponsored the fifth annual party at Luigi's Pizza in Aurora. Guests included students, teachers and parents from East Aurora School District 131 and West Aurora School District 129. |  Courtesy of Al Benson

Kids around the world have been visiting Santa during the past few weeks, hoping their Christmas wishes are heard. In Aurora, kids who are hearing impaired got the chance to communicate with Santa during the Aurora Noon Lions Club’s annual pizza party and Santa visit Dec. 11.

Dan Basalone, of Lisle, who is hearing impaired, played the part of Santa. The pizza party was at Luigi’s Pizza and Fun Center, 732 Prairie St., Aurora.

“It was nice to be able to give back to the community and to these kids,” owner Bill Poss said. “We’ve hosted this for many years, and to see the kids crawl up on Santa’s lap and talk to each other in sign language just melts your heart.

“There isn’t a sound in the room, but it’s just a heartwarming thing to watch.”

Poss said his restaurant normally makes from 45 to 50 large pizzas to feed the guests.

Crowds of people began gathering just before 6 p.m. as Basalone emerged from a room near the dining area in his costume.

“I’ve been doing this for four years,” Basalone said through interpreter Jeanne McDonald of Naperville, who attends the same church. “Kids ask for a lot of Play Stations, and if they ask for something that’s too expensive, I have them write it down.”

Basalone says he thoroughly enjoys the children and has five grandchildren of his own.

Signing with kids, he said, really energizes them.

“When a child sits on my lap and I start signing with them, their eyes just light up,” he said. “They really don’t expect to see it.”

The Lions Club partnered this year with the Sycamore-based Northwestern Illinois Association, a regional special education cooperative serving children with special needs, including autism, hearing and vision impairment.

Kathy Reuter, NIA supervisor of hearing services, said that students from East Aurora School District 131 and West Aurora School District 129 were invited along with their parents, and that the event offered social and networking opportunities in addition to hanging out with Santa.

“These are students from the same town but from two different school districts, and many of them don’t know one another,” Reuter said.

“This gives kids a chance to meet other children who deal with the same issues as well as their parents, who may also be hearing impaired. The Lions Club has been wonderful about doing years for a number of years.”

Alivia Adamczyk, 9, of Batavia, and her mother, Dellannie, were on hand, and Alivia said Santa was going to hear about her Christmas request.

“I want a piano,” she said. “I want to learn how to play.”

“I think she got the idea after listening to some music I played at home,” Dellannie said.

Alivia was asked about something smaller like a guitar, but she quickly noted that a guitar was something her brother wanted.

Ashley Mack-Cruz, 6, of Aurora, said that dolls were going to be on her Christmas list.

“I like getting presents at Christmas time, and I also like the cookies — the sugar ones are my favorite,” Ashley said as she finished her pizza.

Her mother, Lisa, said the family was leaving in about a week to travel to South Dakota to spend the holiday with family there.

Ashley then explained how Santa was able to visit so many houses in one night.

“His sleigh goes really fast,” she said. “He uses it like a horse.”

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