On Saturday afternoon, December 17, 2016, approximately fifty eager volunteers hosted our first ever “Gift Club for Kids” community Christmas event. For close to a decade, the “Christmas Shopping Mall” from which this program spawned was conducted at a community centre in downtown Hamilton. This year it was decided that we would try to host it ourselves, on the mountain, in the hope that with a few tweaks to the program, we could not only mingle with children but entire families.
With the assistance of the Mountain Kidz Klub, ten families were invited to partake in the gift-giving event. (Due to illness and last minute changes, only eight families actually attended.) Upon arrival families were greeted by volunteers, provided with name tags, and introduced to their table hosts. Each family was then taken into the festively-decorated gym where they were invited to enjoy an array of tasty treats. Guests then spent time making Christmas crafts together and visiting with host families at their assigned tables. A jazzy ensemble consisting of a saxophone, guitar, keyboard, and accordion provided a cheerful ambience with Christmas songs and carols playing in the background.
The program officially opened with a short skit by Really Living’s Drama Club about the true meaning of Christmas. It was then time for the 16 guest children in attendance to choose gifts for their siblings. A cheery gift display area was set up in the hallway, and guest children, accompanied by a volunteer child or teen, were able to each select a gift for a sibling in their family and wrap it up in a gift bag. Next, siblings were given the opportunity to choose a gift for their parents together.
Finally, guest families were each provided with a take-home bag of goodies along with a Wal-Mart gift card to help them with their seasonal expenses. Volunteers and guests together sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to close the event.
One of the reasons that organizers felt the event was successful, beyond the joy of sharing, giving, and making new friends, was the fact that guests did not want to leave once the program ended. It was a good 20 minutes after the close before the first guests finally made their way home. Volunteers cheerfully worked together to clean up and head home themselves, hearts overflowing with the joy of lives made brighter and an afternoon well-spent.