St. Aloysius program spreads holiday joy to military family

St. Aloysius School hosts a virtual Christmas Program allowing a parent deployed in Afghanistan to tune in

TULARE – The holidays can be a tough time for troops deployed overseas, but one local school made it possible for a military family to share a special moment together. St. Aloysius School hosted a virtual Christmas Program this year, allowing for an active service member deployed in Afghanistan to tune in and watch his three kids perform.

Last Wednesday, St. Aloysius School in Tulare hosted their Holiday Extravaganza event. It has been one of the school’s biggest annual fundraisers for more than a decade, with hundreds of people that are normally in attendance. The school also hosts an annual Christmas program with class performances from each grade, but neither event could be held in person this year due to the ongoing pandemic. As a result, the junior kindergarten through eighth grade school decided to combine the two events and hold them virtually via WebX, a video conferencing platform.

Since the event was virtual, families were able to watch together at home. Each class recorded their performances prior to the live event, which was then hosted by Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel III. While the many families would have preferred the traditional in-person program, the virtual event was a secret blessing for other families.

Alejandro Ramos is a sergeant in the Army and was sent off on a year long deployment to Afghanistan back in March. Submitted photo.

“When I first found out [that the event was virtual] I was excited because my husband was able to watch. So it worked out better for my family,” Kayla Ramos said. “My kids were excited because they knew their dad was going to watch and they made signs for him.”

Kayla’s husband, Alejandro Ramos, is a Sergeant in the Army and was sent off on a year long deployment to Afghanistan back in March. This is the longest time he’s been away from home and it will be the first time he’s missed a year’s worth of moments in the lives of his young children. Despite being 12 hours ahead and waking up at 7 a.m., the virtual Christmas program allowed him to tune in live along with all the other parents from the school.

“He was pretty excited, it made him feel included,” Ramos said. “I felt like we were all watching it together, we were on FaceTime with him as he was watching on his computer.”

The couple has three kids at the school: Nevaeh in second grade, Ariana in first grade and Genesis in junior kindergarten. They also have a baby named Elias. The kids were able to make various signs for their dad saying “I love you” and “Merry Christmas” which they displayed during their performances. The virtual program was also special because they normally only get to talk to their dad on the weekends, since they’re normally in school or asleep when he calls during the week.

The Ramos family is currently in their first year at St. Aloysius. They’ve had a memorable experience as the school has made an intentional effort to appreciate the service of Sgt. Ramos. On Veteran’s Day, Nevaeh’s second grade class wrote him letters of appreciation which he unexpectedly received a day before Thanksgiving.

“He called when he got them and was all excited, it made him feel really appreciated. This school goes a lot further when it comes to the military. We’re not even in a military town and we didn’t expect this so it makes us feel better for the time being,” Ramos said.

The Holiday Extravaganza was a major success for St. Aloysius School with 125 tickets sold at $100 each. There was also an auction where one of the top prizes was a four night, five day getaway at Bass Lake. The school also raised money leading up to the event which were accompanied by fundraising thresholds if certain amounts were reached by Dec. 1. When $5,000 was raised, second grade teacher Ms. Griesbach agreed to kiss a pig during the live event. When $10,000 was raised, three teachers agreed to do a Christmas dance on TikTok, a video sharing social networking app. The top incentive was from St. Aloysius pastor Rev. Msgr. Richard Urizalqui and principal Holly Zamora who agreed to get Christmas slimed by the Grinch if $20,000 were raised, a threshold not met by the deadline.

The school is continuing the fundraiser through the end of December. In addition to monetary donations, they are also accepting specific items from the teacher wishlist. Donations can be made online at one.bidpal.net/holidayextravaganza2020.

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