The Union Recorder

November 25, 2013

'A Beautiful December'

Craig Center commemorates M-Day tradition a final time

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder


Hundreds of Milledgeville-Baldwin County residents, dignitaries and state officials are slated to commemorate Central State Hospital (CSH) during the 55th annual Mayor’s Motorcade, also known as M-Day.

“We have great community support. If you have not seen [the show] you don’t know what you’re missing out on; you will be absolutely amazed,” said Shannon New-Diaz, assistant director of the M-Day program. “The main reason this year is more special than in the past is because we’ve reached out in the community and have so much more support. We’re glad that we have some new special features and special acts and ones that have performed in the past that will be coming back.”

The festivities this year for the “Beautiful December” event will begin Tuesday, Dec. 3 with the receiving of gifts from 8 a.m. to noon at CSH’s campus. A parade will commence at 12:30 p.m. throughout the campus, featuring Mayor Richard Bentley as chair of M-Day along with representatives from various businesses, organizations, schools, law enforcement and individuals from across the state.

[The M-Day program] gives you a good feeling and sets you up for the holiday season,” Diaz said. “We encourage the community to come out to this very special program because it’s a great opportunity to start off the holiday season with good spirits.”

The celebration will end with a 45-minute musical performance by CSH staff, individuals and volunteers and community members at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium.

The show will have more performances from ballerinas from the Nutcracker,” Diaz said. “The majority of our participants are individuals with developmental disabilities. They put a lot of work and effort to [put on] this show. They have the best time doing it.”

The CSH Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) will continue the spirit of the holiday season with caroling, photos with Santa Claus, punch and cookies from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. An encore performance is scheduled at 7 p.m., ending with a sign language performance to the song “Listen to My Song.”

“We will have staff and individuals from Central State Hospital doing different routines, including wheelchair routines with about 15 individuals from the Craig Center. There will be performances from the Oconee Center, and from the individuals and staff from the Life Enrichment Center,” Diaz said. “The Georgia Military College high school band will also perform, and we will have acts from the Georgia College ballet.”

In 1958, Betty Vandiver, wife of former Georgia Gov. Ernest Vandiver, wanted to help enhance the lives of clients at CSH and to ensure each client was remembered on Christmas. She came up with the annual December M-Day event.

If you haven’t been to this, it’s humbling. You should come see it,” said Mike Couch, director of CSHLRA. “If you want the spirit of Christmas, go to the evening program.

Mayors throughout Georgia raise money and collect donations from their individual communities to provide gifts for the big M-Day event each year.

“We have elves that will pick out the gifts to give individuals on Christmas Day,” Diaz said. “We’ll give clothing, pajamas, socks, hair care items, shoes and anything that anyone would give to someone in their own family. The community can also donate these items as well.”

With the Craig Center slated to close operations next summer, this will be the last time staff and individuals from the building will participate in the tradition of M-Day.

Bring your family and friends because we aren’t sure where our program will end up next year. We hope it continues because we’ve tried to expand it more to the community this year,” Diaz said. “There are many of us that are hoping that this won’t be our last event.”

To donate items to individuals of CSH this holiday season, bring them to the M-Day event, or drop off items at the Allen Building. For more information call 478-445-6057.

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