Secret Santa requests reflect Comox Valley economy
Pamela Jolin has never seen so many requests for warm clothes instead of toys for kids, which she said reflects the Valley's economy.
As organizer of the Secret Santa program for First Insurance Agencies, she said the fact that necessities are asked for shows some families really need extra help during the holidays.
"I mean the kids aren't asking for the moon; they're asking for the necessities in life," said Jolin.
Parents are "asking for winter clothes for their kids instead of toys. There just isn't money for the fun stuff their kids need."
Jolin added that if a young child requested a winter coat, they're going to receive a small toy as well.
"Santa, to me, wouldn't bring just a winter coat to a little kid," she explained.
The Secret Santa concept, which is co-sponsored by JET-FM and the Comox Valley Record, is a simple one.
There are a great many families in our communities for whom Christmas is a financial burden that simply cannot be overcome.
Rather than leave these children without gifts this holiday season, Secret Santa provides a means for individuals to anonymously purchase a gift from a real child's wishlist, and have that gift connected with the child in time for Christmas.
Trees were set up with information tags at partner locations where people could choose a tag and shop for a requested gift for a local child in need. The tags had pseudonyms to protect the child's privacy.
The program collected toys for 785 kids, split about half and half in the Comox Valley and Campbell River, this year.
Now, volunteers will anonymously deliver the gifts to the parents of the registered children, for opening on Christmas day. Jolin said she expects to have all the gifts delivered by the end of the day today.
Jolin said the program has been growing each year since it started in 2001, adding that 197 kids received gifts in the program's first year, and 696 kids received gifts in 2010.
"I think we have more community participation now. Every year we end up with increased community support," she explained. "It amazes me, the generosity of the community. It just warms my heart."