Fall Fun Pep Rally lifts young spirits - Republic-Times | News

Fall Fun Pep Rally lifts young spirits

By on November 7, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Santa Needs Help President Tom Gardner gives Lydia Boyer a chance to interact with a snake and turtle. (submitted photo)

Santa Claus arrived early this year for some area residents, as a nonprofit called Santa Needs Help held a Fall Fun Pep Rally Party for special needs families on Sunday.

The event happened after a parishioner at Hope Christian Church, which hosted the festivities, approached Santa Needs Help President and founder Tom Gardner about putting on an event for 5-year-old Lydia Boyer. 

Lydia has medulloblastoma, one of the most aggressive types of cancerous tumors.

Gardner soon called his vice president, Columbia resident Matt Taetz, and they began planning the party, expanding it by inviting more families with special needs children to come.  

Anyone could attend, but like all of Santa Needs Help’s events, it was designed to benefit families with children with special needs. 

“This time of year, for a lot of people, is an exciting time of year,” Taetz said. “But imagine the stress these families are in. We’re just trying to do anything to lift their spirits. If we get a smile, that’s the best thing we could hope.”

Santa Needs Help was founded more than 10 years ago by Gardner, a retired plumber from Missouri, to support nonprofit children’s organizations. 

Taetz, who runs a company called Best Mouse Race and is an inside carpenter, said that often takes the form of putting on events like the one at Hope Christian Church.

“Basically, if there is any kind of event where there are kids with any kind of crisis, terminal illness or even down syndrome or something like that, we usually go and we do parties,” he said. 

The party in Columbia included many attractions that are staples of the events the organization puts on. 

There was SpinArt, an exotic petting zoo with animals like scorpions and snakes, train rides on a train Taetz built, snacks from Gus’ Pretzels, face painting, a Columbia Fire Department truck and more. 

“It was super cool,” Lydia’s father, Josh, said. “I was really impressed by the volunteers they brought. They had a petting zoo and everything.”

The event was free to attend, and families took advantage. 

“We’re not looking for any money,” Taetz said. “We just want people to come and show your support for families because it’s not only the kids that need your support, it’s the families, too.”

“There’s power and strength in spirit in numbers,” he added. “What we’re trying to do is get people to meet people in their community.”

Taetz said he and Gardner run the organization because they want to improve the lives of the children and it feels good to give back. 

Boyer, who is also the care and community minister at Hope Christian Church, said his family appreciated their efforts. 

“We were blown away by the heart of Tommy (Gardner),” he said. “He’s just such a great guy who makes kids smile and brings them joy. I just want to give a huge thank you to him.” 

Taetz said if the families enjoyed the party, which may become an annual occurrence in Columbia, it served its purpose.

“We just want these people to know that there’s people out there who care and will offer help,” he said. “If there’s something out there that we could do, like a personal party or something, we’ll do anything to help out.”

To find out more about Santa Needs Help, call Gardner at 314-498-9258 or visit santaneedshelp.org

James Moss