Santa pays special visit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MURFREESBORO – Santa Claus paid a special visit to Riverview Elementary School on Thursday.

The Murfreesboro Police Department once again made joyful memories for some very special students when he visited Rhonda Jones’ classroom. Jones is a teacher for the special needs students and the TEACCH program at Riverview Elementary.

“The children were surprised when Santa walked into their classroom bearing gifts and his signature ‘ho, ho, ho’ laughter,” Jones said.

This is the third year that the Murfreesboro Police department and Jones have teamed up to deliver Christmas presents to these students.

“It all started when I approached Sgt. James Dilday and asked him to help in getting Santa to visit my classroom,” Jones said. “Sgt. Dilday took it from there and enlisted support from fellow officers, area businesses and the community.”

Santa brought each student their own bag full of a wide variety of toys. The toys included trucks, action figures, baby dolls and a stroller, building blocks, as well as more academic based toys like the Leap Frog learning center.

“Sgt. Dilday worked with the DARE program at Riverview and fell in love with my class,” Jones added. “The community joined in and the program blossomed. We have provided toys and learning tools for these children.”

Jones, a 22 year veteran of the classroom, talked about how the gifts help her students learn language and improve their fine motor skills.

“Through their tremendous efforts and generosity, the children are not only enjoying a visit from Santa, but are also receiving Christmas gifts from Santa,” Jones said. “The gifts are not only fun to play with, but they foster language concepts and communication skills which are critical in their development. The children only know that they are playing and having fun, but they are gaining critical language and academic skills.”

“Rhonda is an excellent teacher,” Riverview Elementary School principal Philip Gatling said. “Rhonda and her staff understand the importance of enhancement.

“You can see the expressions on the faces of these children when Santa comes in and how excited they are,” Gatling added. “This is an outstanding program and it allows the officers an opportunity to bridge the gap with these children.”

“We raise money through donations from people in the community and the teachers pick out the presents the children have asked for,” Dilday said. “We started this three years ago and before I knew it the program had grown rather large.”

“Sgt. Dilday started a wonderful thing and this is only possible because of him, the Murfreesboro Police Department and the generosity of the citizens of Murfreesboro,” Jones emphasized. “Our children are truly blessed to have friends like these.”