MOLINE, Illinois -- Happy Joe's Pizza planned to host their annual party for kids with special needs, but the 2019 events will be bittersweet.
The events on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 3 and 4 are the first without Happy Joe Whitty himself. Whitty passed away in October at the age of 82.
Each year the pizza chain hosts a holiday party for children with special needs, offering them pizza, dancing, a visit with Santa, and other entertainment. Two parties were scheduled for each day, with one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 11:30 a.m.
"These are our favorite days of the year," said Kristel Ersan, Happy Joe's Advertising and Marketing Director. "Many of these kids have grown up coming to our parties,
and for some, it will be a brand new experience. We love seeing their smiling faces. Our team members enjoy the parties just as much as the kids!"
About 1,400 kids and their aids are expected to attend the parties.
Whitty started the Happy Joe's franchise in 1972, and expanded to 45 locations throughout his career.