It’s not often that in the month of December you put Santa Claus in a room with over 30 children, and he isn’t by far the most popular person there. Saturday morning at the Williamsburg Tourism and Convention Center the big guy in red had a little competition from Mickey Mouse, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batman, Spiderman (wearing an ugly Christmas sweater), Elsa from Frozen, numerous figures from the local TSW Wrestling promoting.
No there wasn’t a cosplay (costume play) convention, which was taking place.
Instead these distinguished visitors were there for something far more important.
They were there to help The B Squad Project with its first major event, a giveaway of 31 new beds to 31 less fortunate children.
“The B Squad Project is a little organization that we thought of to get involved with the kids in our communities,” said Shannon Barman, who is both president and founder of the group.
Currently The B Squad Project has a five-member board of directors. “Basically, it is friends of mine, who basically pushed me to do it,” Barman said.
The group’s somewhat lofty first project was Gutsy Gunner’s Sweet Dreams – which is named after four-year-old Gunner Bowlin, who suffers from Hirschsprung’s Disease – and involved giving away 31 full size beds to children, who may not have a bed to sleep in at night.
It wasn’t just beds that the children received. Each came with a mattress and bed bug protector, sheets, a comforter, a pillow, pajamas, a Christmas stocking, a winter hat and an ornament.
Given that the cost of each bed and accessories was about $350, this required the group to raise about $15,000 over the course of less than three months, which it did through a series of fundraisers.
There was a silent auction for children’s art, a fall festival, working concession stands at haunted houses and so forth.
“We did everything that we can to raise the money,” Barman said.
Family resource centers at the local schools provided the group with a list of local children in need of the beds.
On Friday, the group and various volunteers assembled the beds at the Williamsburg Tourism and Convention Center, and held the giveaway Saturday.
So what did it mean to Barman to see the children’s faces at Saturday’s giveaway?
“Everything,” she said unable to choke back tears.
Idea comes about
Barman, whose day job is manager of the Williamsburg Pizza Hut, got the idea for The B Squad Project about two years ago after reading about the TERF Project in Mt. Sterling, which gives away mattresses to children in that community among other things
“I said it would be awesome if we could have that in our town. I said some of their programs would be so beneficial in Whitley County. I pitched the idea a couple of times to a couple of friends. They didn’t seem too excited about it,” Barman noted.
After her grandmother, Ruth McCullah, got sick, one of Barman’s friends, who is on the B Squad Board, asked her what her dream was.
“I told her that if I could do anything with my life that it would probably be something like the TERF project here in Whitley County that is where it all started.” Barman said.
McCullah passed away on Aug. 18, and The B Squad Project was formed a few weeks later.
Community Christmas meal
The B Squad Project has a second major project that will be taking place on Christmas day.
A Community Christmas Dinner will be held at the Williamsburg Pizza Hut from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The effort is a collaboration between Pizza Hut, Jon Eva Jack’s restaurant in Corbin, and Oral Lewis, who runs a local catering business and restaurant out of Brashear’s Market in Williamsburg.
The event is free and open to any member of the public, who wants to attend.
Barman said that after her grandmother passed away, she wanted to do something for people in the community in memory of her grandmother, and the idea of a Christmas dinner is something she came up with as a way to lift her spirits.
“I thought what better way of doing that than to share her memory with different folks in the community, who could probably use a big hot meal during Christmas. If they didn’t have a place to go, they have one now,” she said. “It is an open invitation to whoever wants to come and join us.”
The Christmas dinner is being held in honor of McCullah and Barman’s aunt, Florence Buchanan, who passed away Nov. 9.