A local special needs organization is marching in the Mummers Parade and making history in the process
By Bill Gelman
Prior to the 2017 Mummers Parade, Santino’s Dragons, a local charity organization for special needs children, was invited to watch the Fancy Brigades do their walkthrough prior to the parade. One member in particular, 15-year-old Christopher Sferra, “took the house down.”
This month, the group is doing the walk-through routine once again, but the 25-member Santino’s Dragons NYA, featuring children and adults ranging in age from 3 to 20, are the ones doing the strutting. Lisa Stagliano, who is Santino’s mom and the organization’s president, said they decided to make their own brigade.
Stagliano said the kids will be marching as dragons and doing a routine about acceptance and understanding. The routine will start with a fight scene, but by the end of it, they will be doing the Mummers strut together. They will perform to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” and are scheduled to start marching around 11:30 a.m. with the Comics.
“They are very excited to break down walls and be a part of the parade,” she said.
Stagliano said the Dragons will be the first special needs group to ever march in a Mummers Parade.
Santino Stagliano, who has autism, started the charity in April 2015, at the age of 10, to help others who face the same challenges he does. Through his creativity and acceptance of others, he found his dragon. Today, his organization has an art program for autism and special needs children, puts together daytrips for the youngsters and provides support, when needed.
Santino’s Dragons have been getting support from other Mummers clubs. Fralinger String Band, based out of 1903 S. 3rd St., is donating a float that is designed as a castle with a dragon coming out of it. Mike Collins Jr. is another person Stagliano mentioned as being a big support in helping Santino’s Dragons NYA get ready. The group is developing a following, including a Facebook page with 225 followers. PHL17, home of the Mummers Parade, also stopped by earlier this month to do a segment.
“These Mummers have just been amazing,” Stagliano said.
With the Mummers being a popular theme at other organization events, it’s highly likely this is the first of many more Mummers Parades to come for the Santino’s Dragons NYA. There were about 100 area kids who wanted to be part of this year’s event, but they were limited to 25, so the others will sit back and hopefully be part of the 2019 routine.
“I am hoping to make it big next year,” Stagliano said. “We hope we look more like Froggy Carr out there,”referring to the popular Wench Brigade from 1429 S. Second St.
“I really want them to be part of this beautiful tradition,” Stagliano said. “It’s just amazing to be part of this.”