St. Nicholas Holiday Party planned Dec. 6 at Watson Institute

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 12:03 a.m.

It seemed strange to Amy Berry that she didn't know one of her closest neighbors in Leet Township.

“So many of us walk, run or drive by the Watson Institute facility. We are neighbors but really didn't know one another,” she said.

So, she, with help from Shari Bruce, the Watson Institute's public relations specialist, and other neighbors came up with the idea of a St. Nicholas Holiday Party from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 with several goals in mind.

“Given everyone's busy lives, the idea came about as a way to get our neighbors together around the holidays, learn more about what our neighbors at the Watson Institute do, support them and the community, and nobody has to clean their house,” Berry said.

“St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, seemed to be a natural time to do this as he was known for helping children and the poor. I talked to my neighbors about having a party there, hosting a fundraiser at the same time, and called Shari with the idea. She liked it, and — voila!” Berry said.

The event will be held at Watson's carriage house on Camp Meeting Road to help children and women in the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. Those attending are asked to bring disposable diapers, booties or unopened, unwrapped baby items, but Berry said donations don't have to be for young children. For those who would like to donate other items, they can visit to find a list of items needed.

Celebrating holiday traditions from around the world and basket raffles will be featured to benefit the Watson Institute. Baskets will include a variety of holiday items, books, games, wines and coupons that celebrate holiday traditions and themes from different cultures.

“We're targeting about 20 baskets, but we're not there yet and are still looking for donations,” Berry said.

The event will work as a silent action with a starting price for each basket. The baskets will be raffled off to the highest bidder.

Games and surprises for children will be featured while their parents look over the baskets. Cookies and punch also will be served.

Berry said Santa also will be there, but she's not sure if he will be dressed in red or blue or both.

“St. Nicholas, given the variety of countries in which celebrations occur because of the life he lived, has a closet full of clothes like you wouldn't believe,” Berry said.

The cost to attend is a donation for the Women's Center & Shelter. Bruce said the Watson Institute is grateful to friends and neighbors for coordinating the event. “We hope it will be a wonderful success and start a new holiday tradition,” she said.

Bruce will be on hand to answer questions about the Watson Institute, which sits on the grounds of the former Watson Estate. When the Watsons died, their home and property became a home for crippled children. Jonas Salk did test trials for the polio vaccine there.

A portrait of Margaret Watson will greet visitors as they enter the facility for the party. “I think she would like nothing better than to have a party in her carriage house to help children in need,” Berry said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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