The auditorium was packed at Mercy Vocational High School this Saturday for the school’s 21st annual Winterfest celebration. Cheers and raucous applause filled the room as Mystique, the magician, made a live dove disappear.
Winterfest is a day filled with activities for young people with physical, mental and emotional challenges. Each year, the event brings more than eight schools in the Archdiocese system under one roof. More than 100 high school students from Mercy Vocational, Little Flower, Holy Ghost, Father Judge and Gwynedd Mercy Academy aided more than 50 special guests throughout the day.
“It’s a unique day”, said one of the school’s two vice principals, Christian Aument. “It’s one of the few opportunities where we get students from other schools in our building. It’s great to see our students step up to the plate and help their buddies.”
Along with an interactive show by Mystique, the magician, the participants also enjoyed a game of bingo, a performance by the school’s Praise Dancers and a mini carnival filled with games and art projects in Mercy Vocational’s gym.
Additionally, the participants and volunteers watched a musical performance by a Philadelphia Mummers band. Student volunteers took the opportunity to lead their special guests to the front and dance with them to the beat of the music.
“Standing up front and looking out at the faces of the special children was too beautiful to describe,” said Sister Marianna Walsh, the schools administrative assistant.
The day was particularly spectacular for guest, and first-time Winterfest participant, Terrell. His sister was his buddy for the day. Akira, a sophomore nursing student at Mercy, was eager to help her little brother play the carnival games. Terrell was thrilled to spend the day with his sister by his side.
While sponsors like TastyKake, Wawa, Keystone Mercy Health Plan and others helped to make Winterfest possible, the school additionally collected money during its annual change drive this past fall. The students of Mercy Vocational raised more than $3,000 dollars for this year’s event. Part of the funds raised went towards buying prizes for the special guests.
At the end of the day, the participant’s names were drawn out of a hat and each person got his or her chance to pick out a present. Among this year’s prizes were camping chairs, a glittery Hello Kitty backpack and an array of Philadelphia sports hats.
The reward at the end of the day for Principal Sister Susan Walsh was compassion for her students.
“I’m so proud of the teenagers that are participating today. The basis of our school is community service and outreach and I always tell the students, ‘this is a day about giving to others.’ We are so happy to have other schools join us for Winterfest.”