BY RILEY LINSEMAN
Are you someone who celebrates Christmas? Think of your daily routine every year on Christmas Day. You wake up extra early in the morning (if you were able to sleep at all), race downstairs as fast as you can to see all the presents under the tree and then, if your parents (or whoever it is you may be living with) aren’t up already, you immediately go racing back up to their bedroom so you can open your presents right away.
Now imagine if you didn’t have that. You’d wake up late with a sigh and think to yourself; “Man … What I’d give to have Christmas …” But you can’t afford it. You’ve never had a true Christmas experience. Now once more … Imagine you’re a family that can’t afford presents and you’ve gotten used to the routine of waking up to nothing under the tree, or maybe not even having a tree. But one year … there is a gift! How happy would you be? The Family and Children’s Services Foundation can provide that kind of experience.
In partnership with CHYM FM, the foundation has been hosting a Tree of Hope fundraiser for 24 years. Lighting the Tree of Hope kicks off the event that runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 31. Last year the foundation raised $418,241. Their goal this year is $275,000.
Alison Scott, the executive director of Family and Children’s Services, described the event as, “The heart of community because that’s when the whole community comes together and really shows the support for our families and children.”
But while the Tree of Hope may be one of the foundation’s bigger events, they’ve done much more than that to support residents who are struggling to get by each year. According to CHYM FM radio host Cash Conners, the foundation gave out 58 post-secondary scholarships this year, sent 240 children to summer camps to enrich their daily lives, purchased 400 new backpacks for families that can’t afford this expense on their own, and made 700 families’ holidays happier thanks to the foundation’s Holiday Support Program. Similar to Food Banks Canada, the program supports families by accepting monetary and gift donations then sending gifts to families who can’t afford them.
The foundation accepts a variety of gifts for this fundraiser including, but not limited to, household items; sleeping bags, blankets, towels and air freshener; hygiene items such as razors, soap, diapers and toothpaste; games (think more like board games and puzzles), and finally, sports items. Donors can also check the Holiday Gift Shop wish list on the foundation’s website at www.facswaterloo.org/tree-of-hope/holiday-support/holiday-wish-list to see what people are asking for. But don’t forget about monetary donations. The foundation also accepts $25 gift cards and custom donation amounts online.