Christmas celebrations abound at Mooseheart

As they sang, toward the end of their Christmas play Dec. 9, Mooseheart's elementary students belted out these words:

“It's about peace, it's about joy; it's about every girl and boy.

It's about family, it's about caring; it's about people giving and sharing.

It's about peace, it's about joy, it's about love.”

While those lyrics form the capstone of the play, “Melton, the Warm-Hearted Snowman,” they also operate as the central theme to so much of what is happening at Mooseheart in the weeks leading to Christmas.

The Holiday Lights display continues every night from 6 to 10 p.m. and as of Dec. 13, more than 1,500 cars have toured the 1.8-mile loop and viewed the 80-plus displays in the inaugural display, according to Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart.

“One of the really nice things is the number of families who are coming to Mooseheart where they're telling us it's their first time on campus,” Hart said. “One of the true blessings of the Holiday Lights is that we are able to allow people from our local communities to see Mooseheart and to learn how and why we care for children in-need.”

The Holiday Lights display continues through Jan. 1. The cost is $10 per car. Some displays have 3-D enhancements and glasses to view the 3-D displays are just an additional $1 per pair. Entry to the display is from the campus' main entrance on Route 31, just south of Batavia and north of North Aurora.

“It's heartwarming to hear comments from families who have never been here who are telling us that this is a new holiday tradition for them,” Hart said. “It's a chance to bring families together, provide good entertainment and get everyone in the Christmas spirit.”

The Holiday Lights display is part of a process of increasing awareness of the campus within its surrounding communities begun last summer with the visit of the Carson & Barnes Circus to campus. Hart said an areawide Easter egg hunt is planned this spring.

“Our goal is to make sure that our neighbors, who are residents in Aurora, North Aurora as well as Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles, know and understand a little better what Mooseheart is and the children we serve,” Hart said.

A certain segment of St. Charles' population has a long-standing relationship with Mooseheart. For the eighth year, the woodworking students at St. Charles East are participating in the “Saints Helping Santa” program. The students work all autumn on handmade wooden pieces of art and then sell them at auction. For the seventh year, the proceeds of that auction are used to provide Christmas presents for Mooseheart's students.

That auction took place Dec. 14 at St. Charles East High School and the gifts were delivered on Dec. 17.

“We have been blessed for close to 10 years by the efforts of the St. Charles East students,” Hart said. “Every year, you say there's no way the students could outdo themselves. But when you look at the craftsmanship and the items they make, the fact is that it's always outstanding.”

Area residents who attend the auction bids on the items. After the gifts are purchased, the woodworking students travel with Santa to Mooseheart and, as true elves should, hand those gifts to Mooseheart's elementary students.

“That's the really neat part of the relationship,” Hart said. “Those students who put their time in during this first part of the year, have an opportunity to travel to Mooseheart. Students who start as freshmen and put in their time and efforts in the program for four years, have the opportunity to come here for four times.”

Those efforts are best-appreciated by the ones receiving the presents, Hart said.

“We do this in our library,” he said. “The kids come around the corner and see Santa there and they get excited. Then they sit and wait for their name to be called, and they come and sit on Santa's lap and receive a gift that they asked for. That's a child's Christmas dream right there.”

On Dec. 16, the Mooseheart Band performed its annual Christmas concert. All levels of the school's band program performed as well the school's choir.

“This is, by far, the biggest event of the year for the band,” Hart said. “They always want to put their best foot forward, but this is a time when they really want to shine. The beginning band students will have a chance to play and then the band and the choir take center stage.”

Founded in 1913, Mooseheart is supported completely through private donations the great majority of which come from the 1.1 million men and women of the Moose fraternal organization, in more than 1,700 Lodges and 1,600 Chapters located throughout the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda. Moose International headquarters is located on the Mooseheart campus.

Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12 to 1.

Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better with 4.0 equals A are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.

Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment.