A Whistler family's Christmas will be a little merrier this year, thanks to the generosity of a group of local high school students.
The holiday season is always a difficult time for families in need, so Grade 8 students at Whistler Secondary School lent a helping hand by raising funds and donating goods to a single dad and his two daughters, aged nine and 12.
The benefit was organized as part of teacher Heather Sallows two social studies classes with the help of the Whistler Community Services Society. In less than a week, the 59 students raised $430 by selling candygrams.
The money will go towards the purchase of groceries and a Christmas meal at a local restaurant that the family had specifically requested. The teens also arranged a holiday hamper by donating used clothing, blankets and games based on the family's needs.
The drive helped to reinforce what's truly important during the holiday season.
"Christmas is more about spending time with your family than just getting stuff," said Liam Beresford, who hopes more Whistler residents will consider donating to charity or volunteering at Christmas time.
As part of their efforts, the kids not only raised funds from friends and family but gave back some of their time to the community, adding a personal element to the drive that Sallows said gave them a deeper appreciation of their hometown.
"For many of them this may have been their first activity like this, and it's really important that it's something they can have a personal attachment to," she said.
"The most important learning opportunity was just how giving and participating in a positive way in your community makes you a good, well-rounded human being, and it makes you a happier human being so you can contribute more in your entire life, both to your closest friends and family and to your community as a whole."
It also showed a different side of Whistler that many of the students hadn't considered before.
"There are lots of people in Whistler who definitely have enough money to spend and buy things that are useful to them, like clothes and towels, but then there are also a lot of people who can't afford to buy a winter coat, or hat, or some food to put on the dinner table for Christmas, so there's definitely two sides to everything," said Maya Christensen, who wants to do more volunteer work in the future.
International student Mariana Alarcon washed dishes and did extra chores for her homestay family, and was amazed at the charitable spirit she found in the community since moving here from Mexico City a few months ago.
"It's super cute to see," she said. "It's like everyone's helping each other out."
For Jasmin Skoupas, the project was a reminder of just how lucky many of us are in Whistler and what we can do to help those in need.
"It made me think about how fortunate we really are because there are plenty of families out there who would love to just be together on Christmas," she said.
"We all get to have a giant dinner and stuff, so it makes me feel like we're really, really fortunate and I just want to help the people who don't have as much as we do."
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