February 5, 2013 · 2:21 PM

SEARS OWNER DUSTIN Parker and staff Lisa Parker, Debbie Alexander and Hugh Lacey formed an assembly line to wrap Wish Tree gifts for children in JHSNI programs. / PHOTO SUBMITTED

For customers and associates of Courtenay Sears, the greatest gift of all this past holiday season was the joy of giving.

Courtenay Sears kicked off its first annual Tree of Wishes gift-giving campaign in December, offering generous community members the opportunity to purchase gifts for children from homes that are struggling financially this year. Sears partnered with the John Howard Society of North Island (JHSNI), and 42 children in KidStart and other JHSNI programs had their wishes come true.

The gifts went to babies, children, and youth up to 18 years old. Kids asked for items ranging from toys to “a pair of socks.” Sears staff wrapped the gifts and volunteer KidStart mentors and JHSNI staff had the joyful experience of delivering them to the families who needed them.

“We would like to thank our customers for donating so generously to the Wish Tree,” said Sears owner Dustin Parker. “The staff found it very rewarding to give back to kids in our community. There is obviously a lot of need out there and it’s nice to be able to do something to help out.”

KidStart is the Comox Valley’s only one-to-one mentoring program for vulnerable children and youth. The volunteer-based program focuses on the positive development of kids aged six to 18 who could benefit from having stable, committed, and caring adults in their lives. There are currently 45 children and youth waiting for a KidStart mentor in the Comox Valley.

For more information, contact KidStart co-ordinator Wendy Thurlborn at 250-338-7341 ext. 335 or wendyt@jhsni.bc.ca. Visit JHSNI on the web at www.jhsni.bc.ca/kidstartchampion.html.

— John Howard Society of North Island