Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast.

“So what?” you may say.

And I enthusiastically answer, “Well, it was an outdoor drive-thru breakfast.”

“OK?” you say, being polite, and then think for a second. And you add, “Everything’s drive-thru these days, so what’s the big honkin’ deal?”

“Well,” I say, with emphasis, “I was served by a 12-foot giraffe.”

You’re probably wondering what on earth I put in my tea before that breakfast. But if I tell you Santa was there too, along with his colourful helpers and a parking lot full of cheerful volunteers, you may obliquely come to the conclusion I’m talking about the fifth annual Christmas Wish Breakfast.

And, bonus: I had candy canes tossed into my car by ladies who were dressed up as Christmas people.

This unique charity of awesomeness is the brainchild of one Lynn Van Laar, who works at City Hall and is also a fellow board member of the Society for Hospital Expansion in Central Albert and has a huge heart, metaphorically speaking, and also a humongous soft spot for children in need.

Especially at Christmas.

“Every child should have a gift to open at Christmas,” Lynn said when I spoke to her several days after the successful event.

To my surprise, she didn’t seem exhausted at all after organizing, modifying, supervising and wrangling a COVID-complicated event where just about everything had to be reinvented.

A world-wide pandemic tends to royally mess things up, but rather than being daunted, Lynn and her committee and sponsors and volunteers became undaunted and collected hundreds of toys for children of all ages, and some serious coin donated by generous folks (let’s call them all angels) who just wanted to do something good for somebody at Christmas, COVID be damned.

And like I said, Santa and his elves were there too, although Santa may have had a surrogate on account of, to me, this jolly old dude looked and sounded a lot like city Coun. Ken Johnston, who just happens to have a white beard of his own. Coincidence?

Thing is, I knew it had to be an actual Santa-Claus-sanctioned surrogate Santa, on account of he and the helper elves, and everybody else except the 12-foot giraffe, were wearing masks, which the real Santa would totally do, because he cares about other people more than himself.

And if you’re wondering about the giraffe, her (or his) smiling face was an acceptable social distance away, being that he towered over the cars by, as I say, at least 12 feet.

So this year, instead of a nice, indoor venue with breakfast and entertainment and a pipe band piping in firefighters who load the toys in an impressive bucket brigade, you stayed in your car with an unwrapped toy in your trunk, pulled up to the toy station where it was removed and placed in a truck destined for the Salvation Army and the Christmas Bureau, drove forward to the surrogate Santa section and collected some candy canes and happy ho, ho, hos, and then pulled up to the 12-foot giraffe who hands you a breakfast in a box.

Then you try to say something clever to him, like: “Wow, I sure look up to you!” And you realize it’s difficult to know if a giraffe is laughing or is possibly offended, but the giraffe simply bows politely and almost puts a dent in your car roof with his face, and you drive away finally feeling the Christmas spirit you’ve been looking for this year.

And man, Lynn’s giraffe and friends can cook a mean breakfast.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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