By Lindsay Ducharme
For most tree decorators, the angel sits on the top of the tree, however for staff, students and families at Greely Road School, angels adorn the tree entirely. The school community has embraced their first annual Angel Tree campaign benefitting the Fort McMurray Salvation Army.
“Angel Trees is something new for us,” explained Tammy Grisch, event organizer. “At the beginning of the year we discussed doing some kind of fundraising during the Christmas season. We looked at a variety of ideas, but at one of the schools I worked at in the past in another province we had decorations on Christmas trees. Though nothing to this extent, people would take a decoration and buy the gift on the back. Everyone loved the idea. We ended up partnering with the Salvation Army.”
The Angel Trees program, a Salvation Army initiative, involves placing “angel” tags on a Christmas tree. Each tag corresponds with a child of a family in need. The tag will list the child’s gender, age, and size. Each child receives four tags so that they will each receive things like socks, pajamas, clothing and a toy. All tags come complete with an alphanumeric code on the bottom to link children in the same families, while protecting confidentiality. Grisch said some families took it upon themselves to match the codes in order to collect all the tags for one family.
“This program is specific to local families and specific kids. The Salvation Army had over 40 families they had Angel Tree tags for and another 40 families they hadn’t even done tags for with more applications for families in need still coming in when we got involved,” Grisch said.
Initially Grisch and fellow staff members were nervous as to how the school community would accept the campaign, however, all fears were cast aside the first day of the campaign.
“I wasn’t sure how it would take and if we would even get rid of any, so the first day I put out 30 tags on the tree and they were gone in an hour during parent teacher night. In that first week during parent teacher interviews we had 200 tags gone, and in the past week we have distributed over 100 more.”
When all was said and done the school community rallied to provide gifts for over 330 tags. On December 8th, all gifts were collected at the school, packed and delivered to the Salvation Army, who will in turn delivery to local families in the days leading up to Christmas.
Grisch said the generosity and caring spirit exhibited by the school community will not only benefit local families, it is sure to have a lasting impact on the students of Greely Road School as well.
“We are overwhelmed and so proud. We are talking about the trees in the classrooms and students are even talking about it outside of class. In division one in the school we have been teaching citizenship and trying to instill citizenship in the kids and that’s another reason why we chose to do this program. When I described the program in the newsletter I tried to stress student involvement to parents, have your kids pick the tags, show them the gift of giving.”
“We had not anticipated how well the community would respond, we were completely overwhelmed and thrilled,” she added.