Though breakfast wasn’t served until 8 a.m., the first people showed up to the Christmas Wish Breakfast 45 minutes early.
By 9 a.m. Sunday, the line was out the door of the Black Knight Inn with scores of Red Deer residents gifts in hand, ready to donate a toy and grab some bacon and eggs.
The first, and hopefully annual if committee chair Lynn Iviney gets her way, Christmas Wish Breakfast got off to a hot start with hundreds of donated toys greeting hungry people as they entered the building.
“Look at this room,” said Iviney, pointing out how packed and busy it was Sunday morning. “People have left already.”
The toys, as well as gift cards and cash, will be given to children in Red Deer to ensure they have something to unwrap Christmas morning.
Being a first attempt, organizers didn’t quite know what to expect turnout wise. Iviney and committee member Kelly Makinson both said they had anticipated a rush at 10 a.m., but had not expected it to be as busy as it was.
“This is insane,” said Makinson. “We had no idea in the first hour we would get this many toys and this many people.”
Iviney said they had received close to 1,000 gifts in total this season, this included ones already donated to fire stations and the ones brought Sunday morning in exchange for breakfast.
The breakfast is similar to one run in Vancouver where Iviney used to live. She wanted to bring the event to Red Deer and one Sunday in April she was at the Black Knight Inn and walked into Ken Mandrusiak’s office to pitch the idea. Mandrusiak, the president of the Black Knight Inn was receptive.
“It just took a life of its own,” said Iviney as sponsors including Stantec, the Advocate and Kraze radio station all joined in supporting the event.
“Everyone I approached for this, nobody said no.”
For Iviney it also has some personal resonance. She remembers being told the family didn’t have money for Christmas, especially after her father died when she was a child.
“That feeling doesn’t leave you,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that never happens and it happens all the time. I made a pledge to (Red Deer City) Coun. Buck Buchanan that every child in Red Deer will have a gift this Christmas.”