Christmas with Dad event

News

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Sons and daughters made unforgettable memories in a special holiday celebration at a first-of-its-kind holiday event at the Danville Area Correctional Center.

The holidays can be a tough time for inmates behind bars.

“It’s two and a half years since I’ve spent time with them. Christmas wise it’s been about ten years,” said Inmate Antione Johnson.

Inmates felt especially isolated during the pandemic with no visitors allowed. In a place where days become a blur, this day stood out. Johnson hasn’t seen his kids since the start of covid-19.

Johnson said, “I’ve been up since six o’clock this morning just waiting on the event.”

The Danville Area Correctional Center’s first-ever Christmas with dad event Saturday morning was a special moment for the kids, too, who missed their dad.

“With having a parent incarcerated you miss out on a lot of holidays you miss out on a lot of big events, birthdays. For this holiday season we wanted to allow kids to have a groundbreaking memorable holiday moment with their father,” said Wandjell Browning event organizer and, CEO of the Freedom Child Foundation.

Browning knows firsthand what those kids feel during the holidays.

“At eight years old both of my parents were incarcerated,” said Browning.

Assistant Warden Gregory Runyan said they want inmates to feel a piece of home for the holidays before they go home for good.

Runyan said, “Most of these guys are going home soon unification effort to essentially be an ice breaker for their first Christmas home.”

Other inmates decorated paintings, wood projects, and a mural. They even had a band. Christmas with dad is the first event like this in the country. Browning said she hopes to see it grow into other correctional centers around the state.

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