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Christmas Wish Breakfast in Red Deer a big success

Hundreds of toys donated
Christmas Wish Breakfast organizing committee members Jill Spiess, Karen Jackman and Lynn Van Laar. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Hundreds of Central Albertans made donations to a pair of charities at the seventh annual Christmas Wish Breakfast.

The event was held inside Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre on Sunday morning in support of the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and Red Deer Salvation Army.

“I think this is the biggest and busiest breakfast we’ve had,” said Lynn Van Laar, creator of the event.

“Every year, I’m just blown away. Every time we do this I feel like Mary Tyler Moore who’s having a party and is expecting no one to come. Then I get surprised every year by the turnout.”

Van Laar organizes the event alongside Jill Spiess and Karen Jackman.

For the Christmas Wish Breakfast, central Albertans were asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the event in exchange for a hot buffet breakfast. Cash donations were accepted as well.

“Our motto is ‘families helping families.’ This is when the people who can are able to help the people who can’t,” said Van Laar.

“You can have a family where both the mom and dad work, but they still don’t have money for the extras. The charities have told me there are people who’ve come to them for help and when things have turned around and gotten better for them, they’ve come to this breakfast, and they’re donating. People remember.”

Last week, Van Laar told The Advocate that her father passed away when she was nine years old – at the time, her mother told Van Laar and her siblings that there wouldn’t be any money for Christmas.

“It was very hard on her – I think even harder on her than it was on the kids. I don’t think any parent should have to do that,” Van Laar said, adding the Christmas Wish Breakfast is about showing children who families are struggling that they are cared for.

This was the first time the event was held at Westerner Park. The first four Christmas Wish Breakfasts were held at the Black Knight Inn. In 2020, the breakfast was a drive-thru event, due to COVID-19 restrictions, then in 2021 it was held at the Pidherney Centre.

For more information on the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, visit For more information on the Red Deer Salvation Army, visit

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Five-year-old Ryatt, of Red Deer County, meets Santa Claus during the Christmas Wish Breakfast at Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre on Sunday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Hundreds of toys were donated through the Christmas Wish Breakfast at Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre on Sunday morning. Donations will be split between the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and the Red Deer Salvation Army. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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