The Angel Tree has been a Christmas tradition in Campbell River for so long that children who received gifts from the project when they were young have come back and donated gifts to the project as adults.
Dawn Hamilton, coordinator of the project, figures it has been around 32 years.
The tree will be up in the Coast Discovery Inn lobby this afternoon at 4 p.m. At the moment there are just over 300 children in need this Christmas, and more applications will be coming in before the Dec. 11 collection deadline.
Each year Hamilton approaches the designated agencies in town and asks them to fill out applications for families who are in need of extra support during the holiday season.
The workers provide Hamilton with details about the childrens’ needs, including clothing and shoe sizes, as well as wants and interests. Hamilton writes the information down on a card and hangs the cards from a Christmas tree in the Coast Discovery Inn’s lobby.
When someone has chosen a card from the tree, they have until Dec. 11 to shop for the child they picked, and return the gifts to the inn. Hamilton said some people buy everything that was on the tag and others pick one want and one need.
Hamilton said things like socks and underwear are always needed. Toiletries and makeup are popular requests as well as Lego and fuzzy blankets. This year there are also lots of requests for Star Wars toys, board games, art supplies and books.
Once all of the donations are gathered, Hamilton and her assistants go through the gifts to make sure the child gets everything they need, and that they get similar amounts of things to their siblings who also had a card on the tree.
Luckily, people, businesses and organizations within the community donate gifts and money, not associated with a specific child.
Hamilton said they often have the resources to complete each child’s list.
After everything is sorted, the volunteers come in and do the wrapping.
Last year the group gathered garbage bags full of new donated gifts, that were then wrapped by volunteers, for 385 kids.
Hamilton took over the project six years ago, when the previous coordinator stepped down. She works for the Family Services, one of the organizations that benefits from Angel Tree.
She knew how important the project was and didn’t want to see it come to an end, so she, as well as her co-workers, stepped up to volunteer.
“We are just so passionate about the program,” she said.
Many other businesses and organizations are on board as well. Swicked Cycles has been collecting and refurbishing used bikes for Angel Tree for the past two years.
Hamilton said she gives the bike shop the information about the children who would be interested in owning a bike and they match a bike up to a child.
“And then the child gets a bike for Christmas,” Hamilton said.
This year Swicked has collected and fundraised to purchase 31 bikes and helmets.
For the second year in a row, Angel Tree has also partnered with The Christmas Pyjama Drive.
Based on a six-year-old kid’s wish that every child should have new pyjamas to wear to bed on Christmas Eve, the pyjama project came to Campbell River through Chances Playtime, who collected the new pyjamas themselvesand donated them to the Angel Tree project.
Quality Foods and the staff at CIBC also raise money throughout the year to donate to Angel Tree.
“It’s a community effort,” Hamilton said proudly.
For more information check out the Angel Tree-Campbell River Facebook page.