Donegal-area groups hold Wonder of Christmas Gala

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:58 p.m.

What began last year as a way to earn funds to repair the Donegal Area Community Center has blossomed into a festive Christmas tradition.

The Chestnut Ridge Historical Society and the Donegal Area Community Center recently presented the groups' second annual Wonder of Christmas Gala last weekend at the center.

The event — endorsed by the Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce — was free to the public and brought in a fair number of participants.

Santa and his elves, live music and food and a larger- than-life Christmas tree made the event a truly festive gathering.

Entertainment included face painting, clowns and appearances by various costumed characters such as Frosty, Yogi Bear and the Caddie Shak Gopher.

Additionally, Ken Tosh of Ligonier brought his 16-foot, miniature Coca-Cola truck and discussed the history of Santa's affiliation with the soft drink company.

A 50-50 raffle was held along with a Chinese auction with more than 20 baskets from local merchants and individuals available.

Live Christmas music was provided by a choir headed by the Rev. Paul Friedhof, pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Acme and country singer Shawn Baird of Dawson.

“An event like this brings our local communities together and also gives charitable organizations the chance to spread their word,” said Eileene Rose of Acme, chairwoman of the event's board and a society member.

Money earned from the event went to various local charities and Pittsburgh-based hospitals, including St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and UPMC Children's Hospital. Proceeds also benefitted the center and the society.

“The day turned out so nice,” said Joe Sarnelli of Jones Mills, who is a board member at the center along with his wife, Rose Sarnelli.

The couple stressed the importance of keeping the Center in good condition for public use.

“It's a nice place for the kids to come to,” Joe Sarnelli said.

Rose Sarnelli said she came up with the idea for a Christmas event to benefit the center because she wanted to bring Christ back into Christmas.

“You always hear everyone saying ‘Happy Holidays' now; you seldom hear ‘Merry Christmas,'” she said. “It's important to remember the true meaning of Christmas as Christ's birth.”

The gala doubled in size from the year before, said Kris Enberg, executive director of the Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber was given clearance to display its Parade of Trees at the center which were decorated by area businesses and organizations, Enberg said.

“We've all grown together,” Enberg said. “This is such a fun-filled day.”

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer.

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