Happy Joe’s annual holiday party for special needs children has been a staple here in quad cities for a long time.
But this year, it felt a little different.
“It’s a tough year without Joe,” said Joe’s Daughter, Kristel Whitty-Ersan.
The founder of Happy Joe’s pizza and the one behind this huge celebration passed away in October.
And this is something his family wanted to keep going.
“We’re keeping the tradition alive for the Happy Joe’s party for children with special needs,” said Whitty-Ersan. “We are keeping Joe’s legacy growing and booming every year at this time and we’ll still be continuing the party.”
But there was still plenty of familiar sights.
“Pizza, Ice cream, Santa, dancing. Its a full on party,” said Whitty-Ersan
And most importantly, smiles.
“We love seeing their smiling faces, they just sparkle and light up. This is one of our favorite field trips,” said Lindsey Prunty, a special needs teacher at the Center. “We get endless pizza and ice cream and they always have dancing.”
And that’s what is most important to happy joe and his family.
“Its our favorite days of the year,” said Whitty-Ersan. “Its just great. You cant come to this party and not leave feeling really good. It gets everyone on the holiday spirit. And its a way to give back to the community and let the kids know that they’re included in our community and that we want them to be part of things we do.”
And that’s what Joe Whitty was really all about.
His pizza was good, but who he was, was even better.
And thats something that won’t go away.
“We’ve got to continue and that’s what he would want. And we’re so happy that he started this whole tradition so we’re keeping it positive. But we sure so miss him,” said Whitty-Ersan