One of the last scenes in the holiday classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas depicts the townspeople of Whoville clasping hands on Christmas morning and lifting their voices in celebration, in spite of having just been robbed of everything they owned by the dastardly Grinch. They understood that the spirit of Christmas did not reside in the gifts they were going to exchange, but was rather a living thing that could not be stolen from them. They got it. The Grinch may be a work of fiction, but the spirit of Christmas is very much alive and well right here in Sayville. I know because I witnessed it first-hand on Friday, December 16th at Sayville High School.
Every Child’s Dream Holiday Dinner, having just completed its 6th event is the brainchild of Sayville resident Ken Mangan, who, while working with the Department of Labor saw a deep need in the faces of children who were living in compromised situations. Mr. Mangan, or “The Dreamer” as he is known to his friends, came up with a plan to provide underprivileged children with a beautiful Christmas experience that they otherwise would never have access to. What is truly exceptional about Ken Mangan is that he has been able to turn a vision into a reality by getting the whole community involved. Every Child’s Dream is now a charitable organization with no outside funding whatsoever. Gerard Scollan, owner of Land’s End and 21 Main donates the food, local churches provide bus service for guests, and a host of businesses, schools and individuals organize coat and toy drives, including Sayville High School, Sayville Fire Department, West Sayville Fire Department, Mr. Nick's Barber Shop of Sayville, Capital One Bank of Sayville, Edward J. Bosti Elementary School, Cherokee Street Elementary School, Helen B. Duffield Elementary School, Edith Slocum Elementary School, Sycamore Avenue Elementary School, Oakdale-Bohemia Middle School, Ronkonkoma Middle School, Connetquot High School, Junior Bohemia Civic Association, and the Legislative Offices of Kate Browning in Mastic, Rick Montano in Central Islip, Lynne Nowick in Smithtown, Bill Lindsay in Holbrook, and Wayne Horsley in Babylon. Mr. Mangan also provides underprivileged children with a wonderful summer getaway experience called Backpack Pirates, wherein the kids are transported to Barrett Beach for a day of fun in the sun. At the end of the day, they are each sent home with a backpack full of school supplies and other fun surprises.
This year's Every Child’s Dream Holiday Dinner was indeed a feast for the senses. In the area encompassing the two dining areas at Sayville High School there was a flurry of activity before the guests arrived, with hundreds of volunteers buzzing about. Every square inch of wall and ceiling was resplendent with holiday garlands, lights, balloons, ornaments and miles of beautiful hand-painted murals and decorations. A choral group sang traditional Christmas carols while the air filled with the tantalizing aroma of prime rib, fresh rolls, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Tables were festive looking and set with platters of grapes and cheese appetizers. Piles of wrapped gifts awaited the guests in the hallway that was also the location of a face painting table and an ice cream sundae station. A whopping 750 guests - children and adults alike - were served in two shifts. I was only present for the first shift, but from what I observed it went without a hitch. In addition to the meal and gifts, 2,000 brand new coats were given away that night.