Maddie, as she’s known to Surrey’s Safe Schools Team which became acquainted with her four years ago, was a bit of a handful when she was 11.
Even the authorities took notice.
Now 15, Madison, has put all “the stupid things” she did behind her.
And here she was unloading Christmas gifts from a London Drugs van into the Safe School team’s offices on 134th and 76th Ave. instead of putting a brick through the windows.
“When I was younger I was always getting into trouble,” she says.
But looking at her today — quiet and composed — this is not the picture of a juvenile delinquent.
But the team which includes Surrey school district staff and RCMP officers have given her the help and support she needs to be stable — even if they can’t remove all the privation from her life.
“I have been in the program four years. I was hooked up with one of the (safe school) workers and we’d talk and go out for lunch and they would get me some of the things I needed — shoes, gloves, glasses — I needed glasses because I couldn’t see the board in class.”
“Back then my mom was on welfare.”
They have found her a part time cleaning job in a sawmill.
“And they bought me work boots so I can go to work.
“They have done so many things that have really helped me — I’m getting singing lessons, I’ve had cooking lessons, done whitewater rafting and hiking. They’ve given me the opportunity to do positive things in my life.
“If I didn’t have this program I’d probably be doing the same stupid things.”
When you are a teenager and your family is poor small gifts — or a pair of work boots you couldn’t afford — take on a dimension that’s lost on the rich.
“Two Christmases ago they provided presents for my mom and me and my little sister. We couldn’t afford a Christmas.
“I got a pair of shoes, makeup, face wash, body wash, and some slippers. It was great I was really happy.”
The personal hygiene items she received had all been provided by London Drugs who have been longtime supporters of The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-A-School (AAS) campaign and each year delivers hundreds of gifts to students at inner-city schools in Surrey, Coquitlam and Vancouver.
The other items for Maddie were provided from funds AAS gives to the team for food, clothes, footwear and other emergency purchases over the Christmas period.
This year Safe Schools needs $10,000 from AAS to help some of the most vulnerable children in Surrey stay safe during Christmas — the most dangerous time of the year when poverty can lead to them being exploited.
So on Wednesday London Drugs was there making deliveries of Christmas gifts that will go to more than 100 families under the team’s wing.
After this delivery the van stopped and unloaded at Old Yale Road Elementary, and then went on to the young parents program at the Coquitlam Alternative Basic Education school finishing in Vancouver at Sir Charles Tupper Secondary and Strathcona Elementary.
London Drugs also donated a microwave, toaster ovens and toasters for schools that have asked AAS for equipment to make breakfasts for hungry and impoverished students.
London Drugs official Wendy Hartley said supporting AAS “has become an imperative program for us.”
“We know these schools and programs depend on London Drugs at Christmas for toiletries and everyday essentials for children and families in need. And we are proud to help out,” said Hartley.
“It would be difficult for us to add up all the toys and gifts London Drugs has donated over the years but if we are able to make one family’s Christmas brighter, that means the world to us,” she said.
Meanwhile, Surrey Safe Schools supervisor Jon Ross was sorting through those gifts.
There were toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, makeup, hair brushes, perfume, nail polish, grooming products for males, shampoo, body lotion — a catalogue of items that the poor struggle to buy.
“It really means a lot to us,” said Ross. “Getting this to the kids and their families, it makes our work special.”
The gifts were added to a small store of items the team has been assembling to be delivered on Christmas Eve.
Noticeable were piles of blankets.
“They’ll go to the kids who don’t have proper heating at home. Unfortunately that’s how some of them are living.”
By Gerry Bellett (firstname.lastname@example.org)