Secret Santa program

The annual Secret Santa program is underway, and will run till Dec. 15, says First Insurance Agencies.

The annual Secret Santa program is underway, and will run till Dec.  15, says First Insurance Agencies.

This is the program’s 11th year, and organizers expect it to be bigger than ever. Since its inception in 2001, Secret Santa has provided an increasing number of gifts to families in need.

This year, it’s expected that through the public’s generosity, over 700 children in Campbell River and the Comox Valley  will be reached.

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.

Children’s names are submitted to a central registry at First Insurance. Those names and wishes are recorded and then given a pseudonym to protect the individual’s privacy.

Next, that information is transferred to a gift tag decoration, which is placed on a participating Christmas tree at one of several partner locations throughout the participating communities. Anyone who wishes to purchase a gift for one of these special children can pick a tag off any tree, go shopping and then return the unwrapped gift to the same location, or any one of the First Insurance offices.

Finally, volunteers  anonymously deliver the gifts to the parents of the registered children, for opening on Christmas day.

Pamela Jolin, a longtime staff member with First Insurance, has enjoyed participating as the program has evolved.

“Over the years, the Secret Santa program has grown tremendously. It’s so humbling and always reminds us of the true meaning of the season,” says Jolin.

The stories of people touched by Secret Santa have left a permanent impression on those who volunteer their time or generously donate gifts and cash to the program.

Some of the most heartwarming and memorable Christmas wishes are those that were the most modest: not flashy toys or sophisticated electronics, instead things like warm winter boots or new bedding.

This year, trees will be located in all First Insurance offices. In the Comox Valley, trees are located at Ascent Physio, Courtenay Family Chiropractic, Cumberland Dental, Curves (Courtenay), Dairy Queen, Driftwood Dental, Glacier Greens, Plates, Shoppers Drug Mart, South Country Feed, and Fitness Excellence, plus the three First Insurance offices.

To register a child, simply fill out and return one of the registration forms published in the Comox Valley Record or the Campbell River Mirror, or pick up a form from any one of the First Insurance offices. The identities of registered families is held in the strictest confidence and great care is taken to ensure that the gifts are delivered discreetly.

To purchase a gift for one of these children (maximum value $50), just pick a tag off any of the Secret Santa trees and go shopping.

It is the goal of program organizers that no child in the community is left to greet Christmas morning without a gift. If you are unable to shop, you can also participate by donating to the program, and one of the Secret Santa volunteers will do the shopping for you.

For more information, residents can call First Insurance at 250-703-0858 or 1-800-655-5255 or visit any one of the Comox, Courtenay or Campbell River offices.

— First Insurance