Children will be able to open a gift when they wake up on Christmas morning thanks to an annual fundraiser that’s happening next weekend.
The seventh Christmas Wish Breakfast will run from 8-11 a.m. at Westerner Park’s Marquis Room on Sunday, Nov. 20.
Central Albertans are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the event in exchange for a hot buffet breakfast. The toys, as well as any cash donations, will go towards the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and the Red Deer Salvation Army.
“Shortly after my father passed away, when I was nine, my mom had said to the kids that there wasn’t 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,” said Lynn Van Laar, the Christmas Wish Breakfast’s creator.
“This is about showing kids whose families are struggling that somebody’s thought about them and somebody cares. There are a lot of people who are struggling in Red Deer.”
Van Laar used to live in Vancouver, where there was a similar event. This inspired her to bring the Christmas Wish Breakfast to Red Deer.
“My husband and I were at brunch for the Black Knight Inn … and afterwards we were leaving. The owner Ken Mandrusiak, who recently passed away, was sitting in his office.
“I went in there and asked if I could talk to him and he said, ‘Sure.’ I told him I wanted to have (an event) where people will bring an unwrapped toy and in return we’ll give them a breakfast. … I said, ‘Are you in?’ and he said, ‘OK.’”
The first four Christmas Wish Breakfasts were held at the Black Knight Inn. Then the fifth breakfast, in 2020, was a drive-thru event and the sixth, in 2021, was held at the Pidherney Centre.
Even before COVID-19 and ballooning inflation, there was a need for toys in the community, Van Laar said.
“Before we had the first breakfast, I sat down with the Christmas Bureau and the Salvation Army, and I spoke with them about the need,” she said.
“This isn’t about getting kids the latest electronics and big fancy things. It’s just to make sure that when they wake up on Christmas morning, something is there to show somebody has thought about them. You have families where both parents work, but they just don’t have money for the extras.”
Van Laar said she hopes to see 750 people attend the annual breakfast.
“The support we’ve received over the years is very heartwarming, very touching. It’s really proved that Red Deer is a very caring and giving community,” she said.
Several toys are being sought – though the charities have asked for no stuffed animal donations. For a full list of gift suggestions, visit wishbreakfast2019.wixsite.com/cwb2020.