Santas make record-breaking delivery

Santas Anonymous campaign wraps up 31st year in Fort McMurray

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

The staff, students and alumni of Father Mercredi High School, along with community volunteers, celebrate the wrap-up for the 2015 Santas Anonymous campaign in the school’s gymnasium on December 18. Almost 700 hampers packed with a traditional Christmas dinner, a week’s worth of groceries, and presents were delivered to residents. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

The staff, students and alumni of Father Mercredi High School, along with community volunteers, celebrate the wrap-up for the 2015 Santas Anonymous campaign in the school’s gymnasium on December 18. Almost 700 hampers packed with a traditional Christmas dinner, a week’s worth of groceries, and presents were delivered to residents. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

With a record number of referrals to the 2015 Santas Anonymous campaign, the students and staff of Father Mercredi High School are celebrating the end of a successful 31st year.

A total of almost 700 Christmas hampers were packed and delivered to nominated residents from the high school gymnasium on December 18.

Jennifer Downey, teacher coordinator for the Santas Anonymous campaign, has been taking part annually for eight years and shared how the students – present and past – always raise the bar for the community-wide initiative.

“The students always go above and beyond our expectations each year,” said Downey. “They put so much into this campaign and it really leaves an impact on them. We still get alumni who come back, year after year, to help us out.”

The campaign kick-off began on November 20 and the past five weeks included a variety of fundraising efforts to get the community involved. Most recently, the Miracle Marathon collected approximately $35,000 in cash and gift cards.

Also, approximately 270 stockings and gifts were sent to the Athabasca Delta Community School, which were prepared by the Aboriginal Entrepreneurship class and the Student Services team at Father Mercredi High School for their students. The delivery to the Fort Chipewyan school was made possible by McMurray Aviation on December 15.

Delivery Day for the Santas Anonymous’ hampers was the last of the community initiatives that pulled it altogether to make for a better Christmas experience for those in need. On the night of December 18, Downey expressed the relief of ending another successful year and shared how the experience reveals the true meaning of the season.

“Santas Anonymous is an experience that you cannot explain, until you take part in it,” she said. “It’s so many things at once. It’s humbling, exhausting, incredibly organized, amazing and it’s really what Christmas is all about… each year it overwhelms me to see how generous people are here.”

“Santas Anonymous is an experience that you cannot explain, until you take part in it,” she said. “It’s so many things at once. It’s humbling, exhausting, incredibly organized, amazing and it’s really what Christmas is all about… each year it overwhelms me to see how generous people are here.”

Local resident Richard Tripp was among the volunteers helping prepare hampers on December 17. Being his fourth year as a resident, Tripp recalls his first Fort McMurray Christmas and shared the importance of taking part in this year’s campaign.

“This experience was a tad emotional… In that, it was sort of coming full circle for us,” said Tripp.

When Tripp moved his family to the city in September 2012, he was heavily in debt. With his wife and three children to provide for, Tripp had high hopes of improving his situation. A couple of months after their arrival, he received a call from a Santas Anonymous representative, who told him his family had been suggested as one who would benefit from the program.

“We were very happy and grateful to be in a position to give back to what was given to us in 2012, as I had always hoped and intended to,” he said. “I think it’s more of an exchange of sorts. A little time and a bit of money from us, and a whole lot of intangibles for us. A win-win situation all round.”

Read more with AURORA KID in Connect’s Youth Beat.

– Connect Weekly –