By Callie Metler-Smith
While Saturday may be a celebration of Kicking Off Christmas in Stamford, the town will also celebrate one of its beloved citizens. Mayor Johnny Anders has declared December 1st Denise Dennis Day in Stamford.
When Denise Dennis was born in 1956, cerebral palsy was a little known condition. In fact while her mother, Skeet Dennis, knew that something was wrong with Denise, the doctor kept telling her that everything was fine; she was just a late bloomer. At the age of 18 months after still not being able to learn how to successfully roll over and sit up like other children her age, Denise was sent to a specialist in Abilene that informed her parents of the overwhelming diagnosis. Denise had cerebral palsy, a condition that happens when part of the brain is damaged, causing delays in development. She was fitted with braces that helped her legs develop correctly, and she started at the West Texas Rehabilitation Center where she received treatment in several developmental areas. Denise received therapy at the Rehab five days a week, all day, for six years, until she started school at Stamford. Then she went three days a week to receive one-on-one therapy, in areas such as physical and speech therapy.
Denise became friends with many of the people at West Texas Rehab. One in particular, Clarence Elliot, took her for a walk every morning. The two remained friends until Clarence's death a few years ago. While Denise only attended the Rehab until she was 14, she has still kept in close contact through the years with many of the people there.
Twenty-six years ago, Denise got the idea that she wanted to give back to the Rehab some of what it had given to her. She started collecting aluminum cans and taking them to the recycling center each year to make a monetary donation at the Rehab's annual fundraiser telethon.
The first year, with the help of her dad, Bill Dennis, Denise raised about $80.00. Pretty soon local citizens got in on the act, and now Denise is raising as much as $500 to $600 each year. She collects the cans in the family's carport, and then family friend, Jim Wilson, loads up a horse trailer donated by Gary Decker and cashes in the cans for the money to give the Rehab. Then Denise attends the West Texas Rehab Telethon each year to present the check for the money that she has raised.
Mayor Anders has asked the citizens of Stamford to collect their aluminum cans and bring them to the square Saturday at 1:00. The cans will be gathered into trailers and recycled. All proceeds go to West Texas Rehab in Denise's name. Representatives from the Rehab will be on hand to help proclaim December 1 as Denise Dennis Day in Stamford. Then at 3:00 Denise will serve as the Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade.