ABATE works with Head Start for holiday party


One by one, the three Rothrock children visited with Santa Claus.

Bella, 3, flashed a big smile as her picture was taken.

William, 5, enjoyed his chat about what he wants for Christmas.

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The eldest sibling, Macey, 11, chose to sit on the arm of Santa’s chair as they talked.

They each received a gift, a candy cane and a stocking full of candy and nuts. Then they headed back to their seats to open their gifts.

For their father, Jarrod Rothrock of Seymour, Thursday night’s American Bikers Aimed Toward Education Christmas party for the Jackson County Head Start program was a special time.

“It’s wonderful to see the kids open presents,” he said. “It’s a good time of year.”

For one, he’s grateful to the local ABATE members for continuing the tradition of buying Christmas gifts for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds involved in Head Start and their siblings.

ABATE is a not-for-profit safety, educational, charitable and advocacy motorcyclist organization that aims to promote safety, protect rights and help others.

“It’s wonderful for the kids to come out and see Santa Claus,” Rothrock said. “That’s what it’s about.”

He also is thankful to the Head Start staff for helping his two youngest children prepare to enter kindergarten. William has been involved the past two years, and Bella is in her first year.

“Oh, it’s very good,” Rothrock said. “William has had a speech problem, and the last two years, it has been wonderful.”

This year, 53 Head Start children received gifts. Including their siblings, 115 gifts were handed out.

Gloria Quicksell, family advocate for Jackson County Head Start, said the event is a big deal for families.

“They all get together, and the parents bring them in and they get something,” she said. “A lot of times, you don’t get to see Santa because they have to pay for a picture, so they don’t take them to see him.”

On Thursday night, though, everything was free. Even First United Methodist Church donated the space to host the families.

When the project started 39 years ago, children received refurbished toys, and their families were given food and small gifts, said Donna Carter-McCoy, Jackson County representative for ABATE of Indiana.

It has since evolved into helping Head Start kids and their siblings.

“We got hooked up with Head Start because we could reach more kids as our fundraiser grew and evolved,” Carter-McCoy said. “Back in the day, everything we got was a donation, and now, we go out and get sponsors.”

Normally, she said they spend around $5,000, which is collected from fundraisers, donations and sponsorships.

This year, though, it dropped to about $3,000.

“I’ve heard a lot of philanthropy is down this year. This is an off year,” she said. “Normally, we would probably have twice what we have, but the Head Start program has been cut so much that we had less kids, so it kind of balanced out. You just adjust what you spend per child, and through donations, we have people who donate candy, and we have people that donate stockings and different things.”

The gifts go to Head Start kids and their siblings under 12.

“So you don’t have a child coming here getting a toy and brother and sister sitting there with nothing,” Carter-McCoy said. “We don’t have that. We take care of them all, and we manage to figure it out every year how to pull it off. Everybody just kind of gets on board to make it happen.”

ABATE members spent a day shopping for age-appropriate gifts. They base that off of what their grandchildren like.

“If you’re in-tune to kids, it’s pretty easy,” Carter-McCoy said. “It’s fun. We go to Walmart and knock it out. They support us. They do a lot of things for us. They donated some toys and some gift cards and things like that.”

She said there are faithful ABATE members who help with the project each year.

“There are a bunch of us that are here that have been here for lots and lots of years,” she said. “This is our favorite fundraiser by far because it’s a lot of work, but this is what it’s all about is the kids at the end.”

Meagan Watson and Victor Sanchez both enjoyed watching their son, Jayden Sanchez, 3, open his gift, which was a set of toy cars.

“This is awesome,” Watson said.

If it wasn’t for ABATE’s effort, some kids might not otherwise get a Christmas gift, she said.

Seeing how Jayden has benefited from Head Start also makes them smile.

“He can say all of his ABC’s, and he can count,” Watson said. “He has improved a whole bunch. He’s talking a lot more.”

Since Jayden is the only child at home, his father said Head Start has been good because it gives him an opportunity to interact with other kids his age.

“I like it because he has started to talk, and I started teaching him in Spanish, too,” Sanchez said. “He’s gotten to learn a lot.”

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