The tradition began in the homes of Columbus Rotarians back in 1920.

Members of the service club would purchase and wrap Christmas presents for children with physical and developmental disabilities.

"Our club back in the early days was very much in the forefront of childhood health challenges," Columbus Rotary executive director Scott Brown said during the 97th renewal of that tradition.

Rotary members, family and friends from throughout central Ohio and beyond gathered Dec. 12 to wrap this year's presents at Columbus' Colerain Elementary School, which is both a neighborhood school for children in that section of Clintonville and a magnet school for students with orthopedic disabilities and other health impairments.

The latter group of youngsters comes not only from Columbus City Schools but also adjacent districts.

The gifts will be distributed Friday, Dec. 22, the day before winter break begins, said Colerain principal Sherri Berridge.

"For some of these kids, this might be the only present they get," Berridge said.

For some Colerain families, medical expenses for the children are so high that there is little left over for anything extra, even at Christmas, she said.

"This is probably one of the events that draws the most people and draws the most family and friends," Brown said.

Longtime Columbus Rotary member Granger McKinney of Worthington was on hand to help wrap presents last week; he was accompanied by his son, Cyrus McKinney, who lives in Northland's Salem Village.

The younger McKinney was attempting to solve the difficult problem of getting wrapping paper to stay on a gift that was round.

Jerry Converse, who now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, but comes back to his hometown for the holidays and maintains his membership in Columbus Rotary, was wrapping presents for the 12th year, he said.

Another longtime Rotarian, Keith Pierce, turned up, along with his wife, Nadine; they live in Marble Cliff.

Brown said the couple learned four years ago about the gift-giving project, which was moved to Colerain from the homes of members, and they've been coming back ever since.

Keith Pierce said he and his wife usually try to attend the opening of the presents.

"It's a great project -- our oldest project," he said.

"It's nice for the children," Nadine Pierce said.

Dublin resident Mary-Lynn Foster, who works for the American Red Cross, is a relatively new member of Columbus Rotary. She decided to stop in Dec. 12 as a way of becoming more involved in the organization.

"I understand this is a great tradition and I wanted to participate," Foster said.

"It's been going on for more than 90 years," Berridge said. "It's part of the institution of the school. The students are already asking when Santa's going to come.

"They started asking after Halloween."