Lonn Schultz won’t be home for Christmas this year, but he has the satisfaction of knowing his two-year-old daughter Renee and his other children will have gifts under the tree.
He and wife Shirley Anguttitauruq decided five years ago to leave their jobs in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut to make a better life for their six children in Penticton
The couple has had difficulty finding work locally, sometimes struggling to make ends meet, so as he often does, Lonn heads back north to work, and that is where he will be a month from now.
It was at the Ooknakane Friendship Centre Shirley first learned she could register to receive toys and other things for her children during the tough times.
Thursday morning (Nov. 26) from 6 to 9 a.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre the Gateway Gives LocoLanding Community Toy Drive will be accepting donations to help families like Lonn and Shirley’s.
“From my heart I just thank everyone so very much for taking the time to do this because it means more than I can say to see the look on the kids’ faces,” she said. “When I see them opening the presents and being with their friends and Santa — it’s such a wonderful thing.”
Diana Stirling, owner of LocoLanding Adventure Park, and Jerry Pokorny of Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd. took on the challenge of organizing the event on short notice just last month.
So far the response has been overwhelming according to Pokorny.
“About 300 people have pre-confirmed their attendance and the corporate sponsorships and the people that have gotten on board is absolutely amazing,” he said, estimating as many as 1,500 people may be attending. “We are just so looking forward to Thursday.”
Afterwards the toys will go to 16 agencies to be distributed to over 300 families throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
In return, those who donate a new, unwrapped toy will receive a hot, sit-down breakfast.
“I think they will also receive a sense of the true meaning of the spirit of Christmas,” said Stirling.
Summerland single mom Judy Kurulak has seen the disappointment on her own daughter’s face in the past when there were few if any gifts but all that has changed thanks to the breakfast.
“I’ve had to tell her there may not be a lot of presents and it’s just about us being together but it is still difficult, she’s not an adult, she is just a kid,” said Kurulak. “My daughter’s used to living on just the bare necessities so to be able to give her a little more and have her go ‘oh wow,’ it’s just so exciting.
“Sometimes now, my daughter’s tears are tears of joy. Just knowing that somebody out there is doing this for our family even though they have no idea about who we are and what our circumstances (are) or what we have been through.
“For me personally it restores my faith in humanity and that there is hope out there.”