Donkeys return to support Salvation Army on Fill the Kettle Day

aily Herald File Photo 'Santa's Long-Eared Friends' brought in $1,000 for the Salvation Army's Christmas Campaign earlier this month.

There were some special visitors at the Prince Albert Walmart on Saturday as part of Fill the Kettle Day.

Donkeys Max and Panda, along with their handler Jen Leier, were offering pets and pictures in front of the store to help support the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign as it enters the home stretch before Christmas.

The yearly visit is a partnership between St. Alban’s Cathedral, Leier, and the Salvation Army. It’s called “Chill with Santa’s long-eared friends.”

Major Ed Dean of the Salvation Army said that the partnership with the Cathedral and the donkey was wonderful.

“They have done this now for a few years,” he said. “It’s on the national Fill the Kettle Day with Walmart. Walmart will donate up to $100,000 nationally to the Salvation Army, and so we get a portion of that today as well. It’ll be interesting to see what the day looks like at the end. (It’s) exciting though.”

Dean said Saturday’s in December are always busy, the donkeys have a way of making people slow down enjoy themselves.

“There’s been some very excited people to see the donkeys,” Dean said. “We even had the Grinch here this morning.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Max and Panda were the special guests as donkeys returned to Walmart for Fill the Kettle Day in support of the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign.

“The Grinch is a busy man. I made sure this time I looked after my kettle so the Grinch didn’t get his hands on it. We were grateful for the Grinch to show up and get a pet in with the donkeys as well.”

According to the Salvation Army, they are nearly halfway to their goal of $100,000 without taking into account online and mailed donations. Dean was encouraged by how many people helped them out by making donations on Fill the Kettle Day.

“There are many generous people today that are here willing to bring their cash or (get a) picture with the with the four-legged Christmas bell ringers and their entourage of two-legged ones,” Dean said.

“We are so grateful for all those that give monetarily and of their time because their time is important too. That time is what allows us at the Salvation Army to do what we do.”

Dean said there are still Kettle shifts open to work for two hours at several locations and encouraged people to donate their time.

“As we continue into this week, we’d like a strong finish,” he said.

Leier said they started bringing the donkeys out for the Christmas Kettle Campaign a few years ago when they would split their time between Walmart and Canadian Tire.

Leier said started getting involved because she respects the work the Salvation Army does.

“I work at the penitentiary where they do a lot of donations for the individuals there and then they also do job opportunities through there as well.”

The donkeys’ arrival always draws a lot of attention. Leier said that’s one of the things she likes about the day.

“You have a lot of traffic over the holidays,” she said. “You have a lot of elderly people that you know are living in the city now that maybe came from the country and farming. They enjoy the animals and so it’s, I think, a highlight for them for the holidays just to see the little donkeys and then for the kids as well.”

The donkeys come in from north of Prince Albert and someone coordinates with the Salvation Army and St. Alban’s to figure out the date and times.

This was Max’s first year as a donkey on location and he took to the idea.

“So far good he seems to be very interested in the little kids because you can kind of see them overall, I think it’s a good first experience,” Leier said.

Leier was happy to have the opportunity to support the Salvation Army.

“I just really appreciate coming out and getting an opportunity to interact with the community and bring donkeys and bring joy over the holidays,” she explained.