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20/20 Eyecare a vision of generosity

Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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At first, the children were slow and shy about opening the Christmas gifts; then the unbridled holiday enthusiasm that only children can demonstrate so perfectly, took over.Soon, the wrapping paper was shredded and smiles overpowered the shyness.At the temporary New Castle home of Donald and Sandra Prince, a small slice of Christmas came early when the gang from 20/20 Eyecare in Glenwood Springs dropped off gifts on Dec. 22.The Princes have a small artificial Christmas tree with blinking lights and a number of simple ornaments.Opening Christmas presents three days early is just one of many things that make this Christmas a little different for the Princes.Long before Father Christmas was even on the radar, Mother Nature flipped the Prince family’s lives upside down.As Sandra and Donald sat back, smiling and enjoying watching their seven children rip open Christmas presents, thoughts of their home in New Orleans were still strong.”It really has been a daily nightmare,” Sandra says. “We lost everything. All we came here with was a few clothes for the kids.”Hurricane Katrina left countless lives in shambles. Shortly after the hurricane, the town of New Castle worked to make homes available for a few victims. The Prince family is one of three New Orleans-area families who have benefited from the town’s generosity.A deed not lost on the Prince family.”We just want to thank all the people in New Castle and the area who have opened their hearts up,” Sandra says. “I just want them to know how much we appreciate their generosity and help.”The Prince family moved into the new two-story home about three months ago. When the holidays arrived, thoughts of family and friends took over.”The holidays make it especially difficult,” Sandra says. “It’s difficult – missing family. We’re trying to keep the kids in the holiday spirit and try and keep their minds off what happened.”Donald and Sandra have returned to New Orleans since Katrina’s wrath made life hard for the people of the Big Easy.It’s not easy for them to forget and wonder what will happen in the future.”The pain is indescribable. It’s something we never expected and couldn’t have ever imagined,” Sandra says.But New Orleans is home and always will be. And it’s now time to go home and start over.The Princes’ plan is for Donald and Sandra to go back to New Orleans and start the rebuilding. The seven kids, Sandrell, 18, Jeremy, 13, Joshua, 12, Jonathan, 9, Troy, 7, Veranda, 5, and 4-year-old Donisha will go to Sandra’s sister’s in Fort Worth, Texas, until home is ready.For Christmas, Sandra says the plan is to keep the holiday spirit glowing.The gifts from 20/20 Eyecare helped.”I was happy they considered the kids and thought about them for Christmas,” Sandra says, smiling.The next mission is to whip up a traditional New Orleans-style Christmas dinner, which is pretty much the same as anywhere, with turkey and all the trimmings, plus a big pot of jambalaya. Even in the comforts of a new home, far removed from the destruction of Katrina, Christmas isn’t the same this year.It’s just not home.”It’s hard to get into the spirit sometimes, but I want to keep the focus on the kids and give them a special holiday meal and do what we can to make it special for them,” Sandra says.The stay in Colorado has been memorable. Even during one of the coldest and snowiest Decembers in recent memory, the Princes have enjoyed the Garfield County winter.And yes, they have seen snow before. Actually, when the temperature is low and the humidity high, it snows in New Orleans. But, obviously, not like Colorado.”My kids really enjoy the snow,” Sandra says, then grins. “I don’t care for it myself.”One of the best things about coming to Colorado is that it gave them time to get a little bit of a foothold on life. It also enabled them to reassemble their thoughts and plot a course for the future.In a way, New Castle served as the eye in the middle of a stormy time for the Princes.”We had a chance to get a little peace and quiet. It has really given us some peace,” Sandra says.Now, it’s time to return home and start over. Be close to family and friends, to start from scratch.The goal now is to try and get life back to normal in New Orleans.It will take time.Today’s goal is a lot more simple – to enjoy Christmas.The Princes will try and have a fairly normal Christmas – the first since Mother Nature destroyed their home.There will be smiles and laughter as gifts are opened, and there will be bowls full of jambalaya.And maybe the holiday spirit will return long enough to overpower thoughts of a hurricane named Katrina that changed their lives.Dale Shrull is the managing editor for the Post Independent.


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