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.