It’s become one of Campbell River’s most anticipated events every year, and it’s happening on Friday.
No, it’s not Starlight Shopping downtown and the Big Truck Parade – although those are certainly also great community events that people look forward to each year. It’s the tags going up on the Angel Tree in the lobby of the Discovery Inn.
Dawn Hamilton, going into her 10th year as Angel Tree’s coordinator, says it still amazes her every year just how enthusiastic the people of Campbell River are to help each other. The initiative has been going strong for over 30 years, and Hamilton has been a part of it for more than a dozen in one form or another.
“It’s grown so much over the years,” she says. “We’ve got people who come back year after year, and a huge number of organizations have hopped on board to help, but there’s also always some new faces. It’s heartwarming to see so many people making Angel Tree part of their family holiday traditions. This community is so amazing. Everyone is so generous.”
For those who aren’t familiar with the Angel Tree, it’s basically a way for Hamilton and her team of volunteers to make sure that every child in the community gets gifts at Christmas. Hamilton coordinates the effort with various local social service organizations to gather the names and ages of children who may not otherwise have any gifts to open Dec. 25 and puts their needs and wants on a tag hanging from a tree in the lobby of the Discovery Inn.
The public can then go pick a tag and purchase some things on the tag – or anything else they feel would suit the child based on the short profile information provided – and drop the items back off with the volunteers to be wrapped and delivered.
So the tag will say things like, “girl, age six, favourite colour is blue, likes Paw Patrol, drawing and playing soccer, needs socks, gloves and a scarf,” and whoever takes that tag can go shopping. They can get what’s on the tag, but there’s no requirement to get all – or any – of what’s listed.
Hamilton and the crew will then use funds raised from the community to “top-up” everyone’s gift bags and go into wrapping mode for about a week before the packages are delivered.
The initiative isn’t just good news for children on Christmas, it’s also good news for local retailers, a most of the money spent on gifts through the Angel Tree is spent locally, Hamilton says.
“We try to get all our top-up gifts locally – I think I spent about $4,000 last year – and I think that because there’s not that much time from when people take a tag until they need to get the gifts back here, most people are getting their gifts from local stores, too,” Hamilton says. “They certainly don’t have time to be ordering them online.”
The tags will be on the tree ready for people to come take as of 4 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 29), and volunteers will on hand that night until 9 p.m., then be manning the tables from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day after that through to Sunday, Dec. 8.
Quality Foods is also hosting a “Photos with Santa” event at their Merecroft Village location on Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photos are by donation and will be emailed to the recipient, will all donations going to the Angel Tree.
For more on the initiative, visit them on Facebook @downtownangeltree or stop in at the Discovery Inn anytime the volunteers are on hand and have a chat.