Dozens of Prince Albert schoolchildren are happy and warm thanks to the local Kinsmen Club.
For the second consecutive year, the club took wrapped mitts, toques and scarves and brought them to local schools, unveiling them to groups of students. The students each got to take home their own set of winter gear.
In last year’s inaugural gift-giving initiative, the kinsmen gave gifts to students at Riverside School.
This year, kids from a pair of community schools got to benefit, as the club stopped by two west flat locations: St. Michael and Queen Mary.
The kids excitedly lined up – and sometimes ran – to get their gifts, before taking them back to their seats and waiting for the whole group to open presents at once.
Once their teachers said “go”, the students tore into the wrapping paper, producing the winter wear, with some immediately trying it on. Students and staff were smiling and laughing as they discovered the gifts.
‘Anything extra at Christmastime for them is pretty huge,” said Darren McDougall, principal at St. Michael.
“For some of our students, those gloves and toques are a pretty big deal. It’s nice to see the Kinsmen step up and do something like this for our community.”
McDougall said some students don’t have access to hats and mittens, while some others don’t have access to high-quality gear. That’s why he was so pleased to see that every student got a brand-new, quality set of hats, scarves and mittens.
The teachers at the school were as happy as the kids to see the kind gesture.
“They’re with the kids daily, six hours ad ay, so they know the students better than anyone,” McDougall said.
“Any time organizations come and are willing to make our kids smile, we’re pretty pumped. We never turn anyone down.”
After gifting the St. Michael students their surprise, the Kinsmen headed over the Queen Mary School to meet the next batch of students.
Principal Mark Hastings was excited for the students.
“It’s good because the kids all are going to get a gift. They all got to open something,” he said.
Like many other schools, hats and mittens are always a need. The school keeps about 500 pairs on hand to give out during the winter if any of the kids are going without.
“As soon as the weather gets colder, all of the kids are going to have toques, mitts and neckwarmers,” he said.
“Instead of a toy, they’ll get to go out and play and be warm. Playtime is important. Lots of kids don’t have toques and mitts. The gift is great.”
Like at St. Michael, the staff was as excited as the students.
“The teachers feel bad because these kids leave for two weeks and some of them don’t have the best Christmas,” Hastings said.
“To see the kids get gifts — the teachers and (education assistants) love to see that.”
For the Kinsmen, to be able to participate in an initiative like this is one of the highlights of the year.
“We get more out of this than any other event we do,” said Jared Devers, one of the organizers of the initiative.
“This is what Kinsmen is all about, putting smiles on kids’ faces.”
The group sourced 240 gifts directly from Hot Paws, the manufacturer. They then got together at a meeting to wrap each of the packages. While it’s something Devers would like to do again, it all depends on the budget.
“Serving the community’s greatest needs is what the Kinsmen Motto is,” he said.
“Seeing all these kids happy, getting a Christmas gift, seeing the joy on their faces makes it all worthwhile.