Annual Christmas fundraiser hopeful to break new records

By CAROL CHRISTIAN, Connect Contributor

Volunteers gather together to support Santas Anonymous during last year's fundraiser. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

Volunteers gather together to support Santas Anonymous during last year’s fundraiser, which marked its 30th anniversary. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

It may be the 31st year for Santas Anonymous, but organizers are fully expecting to break some records this year in demand given current economics.

“We’re expecting to break some records for Santas this year,” acknowledges Jennifer Downey, student advisor at Father Mercredi Community High School. “Last year, we did the most hampers ever for us. We did 565. We are usually between 500 and 550. Right now, we’re planning for 600, possibly more.”

During this student led initiative, Christmas hampers are provided to families who have been identified through the school, social profits, and family and friends as needing a little extra help for the holidays.

“That’s what happens with this kind of economic climate: Families who probably never needed our assistance before may just need that extra little bit this year,” adds Downey, who has been involved with the imitative for the past eight years in some capacity, taking a much larger role over the past five.

The hampers include everything for a traditional Christmas dinner, including the turkey.

“We did make a few changes to our hampers this year. We’re trying to make them a little healthier.”

Those healthy changes include adding more veggies. A week’s worth of non-perishable groceries is also included.

Plus, notes Downey, “Every child twelve and under will get a stuffed toy and a book. For our teens, 13 and up, we do two gifts and a stocking. Our biggest area of need in terms of gifts every year and this year included is for our teens. We do like to give them gift cards, so they have a little bit more choice.”

Families aren’t the only Santas Anonymous recipients: “We do a special package for seniors and infants.”
As always, she offers a big thank you to sponsors and donors who make this initiative possible.

“And we need more of them,” admits Downey to meet the demand. But she knows that while the demand is increasing because of the current economics, it’s those same circumstances that may be curbing support from donors and sponsors.

Santas Anonymous kicked off this past Monday in-school with a collection of items for the homeless.

“We don’t want to forget them at this time of year either and we do like to provide some toiletries, and some warmer toques and mittens.”

Donations are welcome for this collection, until November 25. The community side of the initiative kicks off today (November 20) with the annual Teddy Bear Toss with the Oil Barons at the Casman Centre. Supporters can bring a teddy to donate or buy one at the Santas Anonymous pre-game booth. A new addition this year is Getting Fit With Santas and the cost of participating – $10 or a toy – will go toward filling the hampers.

Last year, recalls Downey, some community members who teach different kinds of fitness classes held their own little fundraisers for Santas Anonymous. While she hopes they will want to do that again this year, it also prompted a little in-house fitness using the school’s fitness room. To start, a boot camp will be offered on November 23. Next is a Zumba class led by a former teacher from Father Mercredi, who now teaches at Holy Trinity on November 24.

Finishing off the week is a yoga class led by a former student on November 26. The sessions are to be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Details can be found on the Santas website: www.fmsantas.com. Other Santas Anonymous community events include: the annual Christmas Market on November 28 and the Miracle Marathon at Save-On Food locations on December 11 and 12. December 14 to 17 is packing week in preparation for hamper delivery day on December 18.

Downey estimates more than 200 students from middle and high school grades participate in some way with 12 student leaders taking on larger roles.

“They love it,” she said. “They definitely come out as leaders.”

– Connect Weekly –