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Santa’s Elves puts a bow on their giving season

BONNYVILLE - The sounds of laughter, Christmas carols, and the crinkle of wrapping paper filled the room as volunteers came together to bring Christmas to families in need.

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, people crowded into the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre’s field house for the Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) Santa's Elves wrapping party.

Just over 400 girls and boys will be waking up Christmas morning with something special under the tree thanks to the generosity of the community. This was a slight dip from last year's 500 kids.

Although there was a lot more room at the C2 than the BCHS gym, it was still tight quarters for those wrapping gifts.

“We set up way more tables, and every table was full,” exclaimed Kendra Moore, BCHS Grade 12 student volunteer. “It was a huge turnout. So much of the community came out to help, and it was just fantastic. Everyone was having so much fun, laughing, and singing along to all the Christmas music.”

Wendy Gamache, faculty organizer with BCHS, described it as the best turnout she's seen in the 10 years she’s been involved.

“We just think that Bonnyville’s amazing. They always come through… give their time and gifts, or monetary donations. It’s a great community."

First-time attendee Ali Morrison was blown away by how busy it was.

“We decided to help out the community, and they always need more people. We thought we would give back that way,” she said.

Thanks to the volunteers, every last gift was wrapped in no time.

“We couldn’t even count how many people were there,” noted Kim Buchta, BCHS career counsellor and faculty advisor. “A field house full of community members, sports groups, and organizations, just wow.”

She added, “I think it’s an event that people look forward to, and we’re seeing more and more groups coming to pass on what giving back to the community is all about."

Santa's Elves launched in 1971, and has been collecting unwrapped gifts for local youth ever since. Red donation boxes are set up throughout town in November and December, which are then sorted into different age categories before being distributed to volunteers for wrapping.

Any of the items not sorted are set aside for families that sign up after the cut-off date.

“We still have extras for those who may or may not register after today (Dec. 11),” noted Moore. “If they do, we still have extras… and anything that doesn’t get used is just kept for next year.”

Once the final gift was wrapped, the Knights of Columbus rounded it all up to deliver in time for Christmas.

The program wouldn't be a success after all these years without the residents in Bonnyville stepping up to help out, Moore stated.

“Just a huge thanks out to the community; for everyone who showed up, all of the donations, and a huge thanks to… the (businesses) that were collecting donations and that gave such huge donations. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Buchta agreed, “We’re overwhelmed with the people that come out to wrap. We just think it’s wonderful that people can give their time to do something like that.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

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