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For Showmen, quiet acts of charity are everyday business

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image Showmen dedicate their lives to making children of all ages smile. On Dec. 9, they help to make Christmas brighter for 320 area special needs students during a children’s party at the Showmen’s Club. Photo Mitch Traphagen

The IISA will make Christmas a little brighter for special needs children in the area with a party on Dec. 9.

For a group of people known as “showmen,” you’d think they would publicize everything they do. But when it comes to charitable acts, the showmen are much less show and much more do. Day in and day out throughout the year, they go about the compassionate business of making lives better in and around their community, often without saying a word. They do it because they care.

Such is the case with an upcoming Christmas party the organization will hold on Dec. 9 for 320 special needs children from area schools. Each child will receive fruit, cookies and other treats and have the opportunity to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Each child will also leave with their very own bag of gifts. And not even the bus drivers, responsible for transporting the children from area schools, will be forgotten. The showmen will provide coffee and donuts for them. And, of course, there will be entertainment. Showmen certainly know how to put on a show.

The International Independent Showmen’s Association, or IISA, organizes numerous events throughout the year for charitable purposes, the most notable being their annual circus at the beginning of January that draws thousands of visitors, with proceeds going to local and national charities. According to organizer Betty Tanner, the children’s Christmas party began years ago with a group known as the Mullet Heads, with the original members of the group catching mullet and holding fish fries and other various fundraisers. Before long, they had the money in their treasury to begin making a difference in the community. They began by reaching out to special needs students at Eisenhower Middle School and every year since, the event has grown bigger and has included more schools. The event has since fallen under the umbrella of the IISA’s Showmen’s Association Charities Corporation.

This year, with 320 children expected to attend, organizers have put together 350 large gift bags, just in case additional children show up. They absolutely could not stand the thought of a child leaving without gifts of their own. They know all too well that for some of the children, that bag may contain the only gifts they will receive this Christmas.

“This is one of the biggest and most rewarding events that is held at the IISA,” Betty Tanner said. “Just to see the children have such an enjoyable time. They are always so appreciative of everything.”

Some children send thank you notes, which are greatly appreciated by everyone involved at the IISA.

The party will be held at the Showmen’s Club at 6915 Riverview Dr. on Monday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. If you or an organization to which you belong feel as though you can help with donations for the party, call the IISA at 813-677-3590 to be put in touch with one of the party organizers.

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