Charity believes in the magic

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am

John Paul II Collegiate students (from left) James Rowlands, Sarah Jones, Katie Coen, Madison Halewich and Carson Campbell stuff backpacks for the Magic of Christmas program to be donated to individuals and families in Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Magic of Christmas is one of the Western Wheel Cares charities.
John Paul II Collegiate students (from left) James Rowlands, Sarah Jones, Katie Coen, Madison Halewich and Carson Campbell stuff backpacks for the Magic of Christmas program to be donated to individuals and families in Okotoks, High River, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Magic of Christmas is one of the Western Wheel Cares charities.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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A local charity is proving Santa Claus really does exist, but not all of his elves come from the North Pole.

The jolly bearded man takes two days out of his busy schedule each December to go door-to-door with his helpers bringing Christmas cheer to those in need in Okotoks, Black Diamond, Turner Valley and High River through the Magic of Christmas program.

Among Santa’s helpers is the Western Wheel, which added this worthy organization to its list of charities for its Western Wheel Cares fundraising campaign.

“We figured Santa and his elves could use a little help this year and are asking our readers to make a donation to help spread Christmas cheer to those needing a little more this year,” said Western Wheel Publisher Paul Rockley.

The Magic of Christmas helps Santa lead a bus filled with gifts to individuals and families who may be alone, ill, sad or facing financial difficulty. Also lending a hand are staff, students and parents in Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools across the foothills who filled hundreds of backpacks with winter clothing, toiletries, toys, books and candy for the Magic of Christmas over the last nine years.

What began as a Millarville family’s initiative to fill stockings with gifts more than 10 years ago was taken over by John Paul II Collegiate and now has schools from across the foothills joining in the program.

The items are organized by students, who separate them according to age and gender, for delivery by “the elves” in mid-December.

John Paul II teacher and event coordinator Stacey MacNeil said the schools donated 700 backpacks last year and already gathered 300 for Okotoks and more than that for High River residents.

“Especially with the flooding we’ve recently seen, we know there is going to be a great need,” said MacNeil. “We know a lot of people lost their belongings.”

Magic of Christmas elf Donna Cameron said the format will be different in High River this year. Many families were misplaced in the June flood so Santa and his elves will visit eight locations with gifts, treats, hay rides and Christmas carols on Dec. 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Locations include Joe Clark School, the Hamptons on Hampshire Way, the Spray Park on High Country Drive, Eagleview, Senator Riley School, Bob Snodgrass Recreation Complex, Spitzee School and the temporary business park downtown.

“There are a lot of projects going on for High River so we didn’t know how to look after that part,” Cameron said. “It’s to raise a little joy and a little bit of Christmas spirit.”

Santa and his elves will stick to their Magic of Christmas tradition in Okotoks, Turner Valley and Black Diamond, visiting individuals and families at their homes on Dec. 14.

Cameron said she loves watching little noses pressed up to windows awaiting Santa’s arrival with his big red bag and his elves scurrying close behind carrying gifts, treats and a boom box playing Christmas music as they sing carols.

“When you can see the faces on these people it just makes it worthwhile,” Cameron said. “The kids are at the door waiting for Santa. He’s changed a lot of seven-year-old minds thinking there’s no Santa.”

Cameron recalled one year when a little boy stood at the screen door in his pajamas and bare feet waiting for the bus to arrive.

“When he saw the bus he was just shaking with excitement,” she said. “This is what it’s all about.”

Last year Santa and his elves spread Christmas magic to 96 families and individuals. This year about 75 families and individuals will be visited in Okotoks, Black Diamond and Turner Valley with dozens more expected in High River.

Individuals and families are recommended by doctors, teachers and other sources and are contacted beforehand to determine their circumstance and family makeup, said Cameron.

For more information, to make a donation or to volunteer for Magic of Christmas call Kelly at 403-938-5484 or Donna at 403-938-5800. Gift items can be dropped off at Village Lane Dental and Monkey Mountain. Please do not wrap the gifts.

Other recipients for the Western Wheel Cares fundraising initiative are the Okotoks Food Bank, the Foothills Country Hospice, The Sheep River Health Trust and the Rowan House Emergency Shelter.

For more information on Wheel Cares contact Gayle Wolf at 403-938-6397 or gwolf@okotoks.greatwest.ca

To participate, call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. (403-938-6397) and make a donation using your credit card.

We also accept debit, cash and cheques (payable to Western Wheel Cares), either dropped off at the office, #9 McRae Street or mailed to Box 150, Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash). Or visit www.westernwheel.com to donate using Paypal.

All donations of $10 or more will receive a 2013 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign.


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