The sixth annual Talk Tillsonburg Children Shop for Christmas – a unique event that allows children to select a free wrapped gift for their mom and dad, donated by people and businesses in the community – brought smiles to 139 children Saturday morning.
Changes were made, adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, but organizers were pleased with how it turned out.
“Considering what people are facing, it was fantastic,” said co-organizer Cathy Ryan. “We were worried we weren’t going to get a lot of kids, but we were only 12 down from last year, which was amazing.
“And everybody has been so great, so respectful. I’m really happy with it, everything.”
Senior dancers from Danscene – including Brooke Sanderson, Emily Christiaens, Brooklyn Kints, Brooklyn LeClair, Jillian McPherson, Genevieve Jamieson and Kennedy Elku – volunteered to help guide children as they selected gifts for their parents, while parents waited in the main activity room at Upper Deck Youth Centre.
“It went pretty good,” said Sanderson.
“The first hour was non-stop,” said McPherson.
“It’s kind of slowed down now,” said Sanderson, noting they were in the final hour of the 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. event.
Dancers from Danscene have been volunteering every year since Children Shop for Christmas started six years ago.
“We can only have so many people in here at a time and we had to wrap the gifts before, which was very time consuming,” said Sanderson. “But it was good, fun.”
“This year we also had to write down all the contact information,” said McPherson.
Reaction from the children was still the same, pandemic or not, they said.
“Still all excited,” McPherson nodded.
“Especially when they asked what something was, and you explained it, they got excited to hear about I,” said LeClair.
“I think some of it’s kind of a surprise,” said Sanderson.
“Yeah, because sometimes even we didn’t know what they were,” LeClair admitted.
The dancers (LeClair) came up with a brilliant idea to help identify gifts after they were wrapped, taking photos of each gift, taping it to the gift, then removing it after the child selected the gift.
“I don’t have a lot of ideas, but…” LeClair laughed.
Sanderson said she did most of the gift photography, then quickly corrected herself.
“Actually I didn’t, Miss Lynne, our (studio) secretary, did a lot of it,” Sanderson admitted.
“We kind of took turns (wrapping) because we’re not all at the studio at the same time,” said LeClair. “It was whoever’s there.”
“This is an event that they love,” said Angela Farkas, Danscee studio director.
Danscene’s intermediate dancers also helped with wrapping, which was done in advance at the studio in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s event. Normally they would have been wrapping and helping children, up to the age of 12, during the event, which had limited numbers inside Upper Deck this year.
“They still wanted to be part of it, so we let them wrap the presents,” said Farkas. “It’s a team thing. And they loved it. They would sit there, six feet apart, wrapping presents. It was really important to them to be able to help out.”