Frances Jackson has fond memories of the Goodfellows Christmas party, memories that go back decades.

Saturday morning, Jackson was pushing a stroller containing her 1-year-old great-great-niece on the packed floor of the Owensboro Sportscenter. In seemingly every other inch of available space, children were scrambling everywhere. Some were climbing and sliding inside the giant inflatable dragon obstacle course, while others battled with balloon swords. Others sidled alongside the autograph-signing stormtroopers from “Star Wars,” or posed for pictures with Disney princesses

Meanwhile, Jackson’s two grandsons were also busily running about, although they would occasionally circle back to her, to check in or drop off a balloon. For Jackson, some of the activities were different from Goodfellows Christmas parties Jackson had attended in the past. But the spirit was the same.

“I brought my kids here when they were growing up,” Jackson said. “It has changed so much,” she said, remembering that once upon a time, the kids would sit in the bleachers and watch Christmas movies. “They’ve made it more entertaining for the kids.”

Hundreds of children joined Jackson’s grandsons at Saturday’s Goodfellows party. While Goodfellows works for children all school-year long, for many people, the Christmas party is the heart of what Goodfellows does. 

Children who came to the party left with a toy of their choosing, along with books and other fun items. Jackson said her hope is her grandsons received something more than just a gift.

Events like the Goodfellows party are “things they will remember,” Jackson said.

“My boys are in their 30s, but they remember coming here,” she said. 

The Goodfellows board spent about $20,000 on Saturday’s party. That’s only 14 percent of the nonprofit group’s budget. The rest of the budget is used to provide kids in need with school clothes, winter coats, shoes and even dental care.

The kids at Saturday’s party were kids who, otherwise, wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas. Many of the kids

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who attended Saturday’s big Christmas blast were picked by school officials. 

“A lot of times, we identify kids through teacher referrals,” said Scott Taylor, director of student services for Daviess County Public Schools. “Counselors do some (referrals), and there’s also word of mouth.”

“It’s also tradition,” said Goodfellows board member Bobby Grant. “people rely on us.”

After an hour of playing, the kids were treated to a motorcycle-riding Santa, a parade of superheroes, princesses and cartoon characters, and an appearance by Darth Vader, who was lowered from the ceiling to battle Santa — before receiving a bit of the Christmas spirit. Then, it was time for the presents.

“We have thousands of smiles, and fortunately, thousands of special gifts,” master of ceremonies Kirk Kirkpatrick told the crowd.

Pam Bishop, who was at the party with her godchild, said Goodfellows has been a part of her family’s Christmas for years.

“My grandkids, and my children, in the past have been here,” Bishop said. “This has always been the best program I have ever seen.”

The Goodfellows board members “do an awesome job, and they don’t get enough credit for it,” Bishop said. 

Bishop said she missed the Christmas movies they used to show at the party, but said, “if you look at the smiles of these kids’ faces, that’s all that matters.”

Contributions to the Goodfellows Club can be mailed to: Goodfellows Club, Messenger-Inquirer, P.O. Box 1480, Owensboro, KY 42303. Donations can also be dropped off at the newspaper office at 1401 Frederica St. People can also contribute online at goodfellowsclubofowensboro.org/contribute.

Goodfellows Roll Call, Dec. 24, 2017

Previously reported … $125,418.68

Anonymous … $2,600

In memory of Mom, Dad, Dick and

Jeff …For all the good times … $500

In honor of Owensboro Public Schools

by Lisa McCarty … $200

Michael and Sherrie Lee … $100

In memory of Marvin and Nancy

Pedley by Martin and Sandra

Holloway … $100

In memory of Barbara Manson … $100

In memory of Mom, Dad, Randall

and Darrell … $100

In loving memory of W.D. Casey

Kasinger by wife, Judy … $50

In memory of Bonnie Carter, We love

You! Mark, Terri and Emily … $20

Total as of Dec. 24 … $ 129,188.68

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