With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is officially in full swing. To say this time of year can be hectic is an understatement. Between decking the halls, moving from one Christmas party to the next and shopping for — or better yet, making — the perfect gifts for our loved ones, December always seems to go by in the blink of an eye. The hustle and bustle also makes it easy to lose sight of the real reason for this wonderful season. So once again, and for the last time as your state senator, I invite you to join me in slowing down enough to really experience the precious moments we are blessed to share at Christmas.
Quite simply, there is no other holiday that creates and recalls such lasting memories, or draws families closer together, than that of Christmas. It is a time for celebration, sharing and thankfulness. This year, just as in every year before and every year to come, I am first and foremost thankful for my family and dear friends, each of whom gives meaning to my life and is a source of strength and love. Their support and encouragement has inspired me to wake up each day with a determination to be the best public servant I can be. I am also thankful to the constituents of the 21st Senatorial District for trusting me to be your voice in state government for all these years. I am proud of what we have accomplished together for the betterment of Missouri.
Perhaps the best part of the Christmas season is that it offers countless opportunities to help the less fortunate among us. There are many ways to make a meaningful difference, and no gesture is too small. You can make sure a deserving child or family in your community has something to open on Christmas morning by sponsoring them through programs like the Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program. You can donate non-perishable food items to your local food bank or volunteer to serve meals. You can ring the bell to help fill those famous red kettles. And last but certainly not least, the holidays can be especially lonely for many senior citizens — be sure to set aside some extra time to call or visit with your elderly family members, friends and neighbors this Christmas season.
I would also like to encourage you to explore the natural beauty of winter in the Show-Me State by taking a hike in one of our great state parks. On Jan. 1, more than 20 of Missouri’s state parks will host “First Day Hike” events as part of a larger program sponsored by America’s State Parks. I have participated in area First Day Hike events for the last three years, and I encourage you to join me for what I am sure will be another great day of hiking.
Head on over to Knob Noster State Park at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day for a walking tour of the woodlands and waterways, which will be guided by the park’s naturalist. Residents of the 21st Senate District are particularly fortunate because Knob Noster State Park is the only participating state park to also offer a “Ring in the New Year Hike” from 11:30 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 31. You are asked to pre-register for this event by 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 29. The meeting location for both hikes will be the Visitor Center. For more information, please contact the park office at (660) 563-2463.
The newly opened Rock Island Trail State Park invites you to celebrate the arrival of 2017 by “Rockin’ in the New Year” with the park superintendent. The one- to two-mile hike will allow participants to enjoy a partial section of Rock Island Train in Windsor. You will have an opportunity to learn about Rock Island Trail’s creation and operations with the chance to see some wildlife, as well as ask questions during the hike. The hike time is 11 a.m. to noon, and the meeting location is at the Windsor Katy Trail and Rock Island Trail trailhead. Pets are welcome, but they must be on a leash. For more information, please contact the park office at (660) 563-2463.
Watkins Mill State Park is also hosting a First Day Hike. Take a guided hike of Watkins Mill Lake Trail, which is 3.75 miles and will last approximately two hours (10 a.m. to noon). Meet at the east dam parking lot (near the campground). The paved trail circles the 100-acre lake with a moderate grade. In winter, geese and, occasionally, bald eagles can be seen on the ice or flying over the lake. For more information, please contact the park office at (816) 580-3387.
From my family to yours, I wish you a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season. May you continue to be blessed and once again discover the joy that Christmas brings.
As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.