Cape man throws parties for Gibson Center

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

For the past 20 years, Gary M. Klym, 58, of Cape Girardeau, has rung in the New Year exactly the same way: spending the entire afternoon of Dec. 31 driving to nearly every pizza place in town and rounding up a feast to take to the Gibson Recovery Center.

Then, Klym throws a party for all the clients in the center, letting them enjoy a safe and substance-free New Year's celebration.

This year, Klym's collected 46 pizzas, from Pagliai's Pizza and Pasta, Pizza Inn, Imo's Pizza, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, CiCi's, Little Caesar's, Papa John's and Pop's Pizza, each of which donated several pizzas.

In addition, Culver's offered 25 cheeseburgers to the effort, and Taco John's provided 50 tacos. Schnuck's Supermarket, Blimpie, Subway, Popeyes, Burger King, McDonald's, Save-A-Lot and Sam's Club also donated food for the party.

Klym not only organizes the donations, he loads the food into his sport utility vehicle and transports it to the center for the party, then saves the rest for a second celebration at Family Counseling Center.

"My car smells like pizza for about a month," he said.

The tradition began after 1987, when Klym himself spent a rather depressing holiday season receiving treatment at the Gibson Center.

Christmas and New Year's came and went like any other day, and Klym recalls watching New Year's festivities on television and wishing he had something to celebrate.

"I thought, when I get out, I'm going to make sure these guys have something fun to do on New Year's," he says.

The leftover goodies always go to those working late at the Cape Girardeau Police Department and Fire Department, he says.

Klym, fighting a battle with cancer, even rounded up the necessary food donations for the party by phone when chemotherapy had him confined to his home.

"I can't worry about Iraq. I can't save Chicago. But I can do what I can in Cape Girardeau," he said.

Local magician Bill Coomer provides the entertainment for the people at both the Gibson Center and the Family Counseling Center with an hour of free magic, something he's done for the past 17 years.

"My desire in life is to use my magic to get people's attention and remind them of how incredible they are," he says.

Years later, Gibson clients would approach Coomer on the street to thank him for his inspiring words, he said.

335-6611, extension 245

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