It’s not a sleigh, and there are no reindeer, but there are Santa’s helpers, so when that big blue and white truck pulled up outside Bonaccord elementary school in Surrey on Wednesday morning it was like Christmas had arrived early for several dozen of the school’s neediest students.
As London Drugs’ Wendy Hartley and driver Kevin Wilson unloaded the company truck, resplendent in their Santa’s Helpers T-shirts and, yes, Wilson in a jaunty Santa hat, they were greeted by Bonaccord’s principal, school counsellor and other staff members, along with a handful of Grade 7 students, who helped unload the loot.
When it was done, there were stacks of boxed Mega Bloks, train sets and other assorted toys piled beside the Christmas tree in the school’s lobby, waiting to be sorted and distributed to the 40 or so children identified by the school as being at the top of Santa’s list this year.
Principal Jacob Sol had nothing but gratitude for the generosity.
“The holidays are a challenge for some of our families and this will be something they can look forward to.”
Wednesday marked the fifth consecutive annual London Drugs toy run led by Hartley — everything is donated by the chain — and this year, the truck visited five schools, dropping off new toys and assorted age-appropriate surprises for students at John Norquay elementary in Vancouver, Bonaccord elementary and Frank Hurt secondary in Surrey.
The special delivery also included boxes of toiletries, diapers, sleepers, breast pumps, baby toys and toiletries for the teen moms attending school at Sir Charles Tupper secondary in Vancouver and the Coquitlam Alternate Basic Education secondary school.
Catalina Joseph is 18 and in Grade 12 at CABE. She gave birth to daughter Harmony six months ago and is one of 10 young moms in the CABE program, which is part of the Coquitlam public school district. While she is in class working hard toward graduation, Harmony is nearby in the on-site daycare.
Joseph lives with her foster family, but said she is trying to learn how to be independent as a single mom, including how to stretch a dollar, which at the moment amounts to about $400 a month in child credits.
So when London Drugs showed up with a truck full of generosity for her and her baby, and for her classmates, she found it all rather overwhelming.
“I just feel very grateful. I think it’s amazing. Some of us don’t have a lot of money. With Christmas, I just feel super blessed.”
So does Hartley, who took up the challenge on behalf of London Drugs in 2011 after reading about those schools and others highlighted in The Vancouver Sun’s Adopt-a-School campaign, which raises funds for needy Metro Vancouver schoolchildren.
This toy run, she says, is just something that needs doing and as much as she gives, she also gets.
“We are proud to partner with Adopt-a-School to deliver toys and necessities to children and families in need,” says Hartley.
“We get to see first-hand the hundreds of kids who will receive gifts thanks to the administration at these schools, The Vancouver Sun and London Drugs.”
At Frank Hurt secondary in Surrey, the company’s largesse extended beyond the classroom, with a special donation of household goods (dining set, pillows, toaster, toaster oven, kettle, books, clothing) for two especially needy families in the neighbourhood.
Frank Hurt’s music program also got a brand new keyboard, and boxes of makeup and toiletries were off-loaded for distribution to the school’s teens.
For Santa’s Helpers, it was a day of hugs and thanks, of wide-eyed wonder and brimming gratitude.
Says Hartley: “It’s extremely rewarding to give back to our communities in this way.”
By Shelley Fralic (firstname.lastname@example.org)