Hundreds of toys were packed underneath the tree at this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast.
The eighth annual edition of the community breakfast was held at the Red Deer Resort and Casino on Sunday. More than 1,000 people attended the event, which featured a complimentary breakfast, live entertainment, and an appearance by Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and one of their elves.
Many attendees made a toy donation or monetary donation to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and Red Deer Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family for Christmas program.
“This is by far the busiest Christmas Wish Breakfast we’ve ever had,” said Lynn Van Laar, creator of the event.
“Some of the tables have been turned over two or three times. We bought 1,800 sausages and offered two per person – we went out and got another 500.”
There are more families in need than ever before, Van Laar said.
“Eight years ago, when I started this event, I thought over the years things were going to get better, but for a lot of people they haven’t,” she said.
“I’m really glad that we do this. You can see all of the families here helping those who are in need of help.”
Van Laar praised the event’s sponsors and community members for supporting the Christmas Wish Breakfast each year.
“There are people here who have been at every single breakfast. The first time one of our mascots came here he was 10 years old – he’s now 18 and in his first year of university,” Van Laar said.
“I just spoke to one little girl – the first time she was here she was two months old and now she’s about to be eight. It’s a good feeling. It’s a lot of work to put this on, but it’s worth it.”
Taylor Poor, Red Deer Salvation Army community ministries co-ordinator, said she’s amazed by the growth of the Christmas Wish Breakfast over the past eight years.
“What we receive from the community has been amazing,” said Poor.
“Each year we’ve found that our program has grown significantly. Last year we helped 777 individuals – out of that there were almost 500 children.
“This year we’ve been booked solid. We’re finding that there has been a growth in the number of families. A big increase we’ve seen is through our seniors as well. Right now we’re almost double where we were at last year with requests.”