Kinsmen spread holiday warmth

Kinsmen Jon Cloak, Brad Amy and Jared Devers hand out gifts at John Diefenbaker School Thursday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Christmas came earlier than expected for more than 500 students at four Prince Albert schools on Thursday.

Students from kindergarten to Grade 5 in St. John Community School, St. Catherine Catholic School, King George Public School and John Diefenbaker Public School all received new toques, mittens and scarves, courtesy of the Prince Albert Kinsmen Club.

“I had no idea what we would be seeing today,” John Diefenbaker principal Roy Feschuk said with a chuckle following the Kinsmen presentation. “Having 10 members of the Kinsmen Club parachute in, gifts packed up, jerseys on, it really created a lot of curiosity.”

Roughly 160 John Diefenbaker students received new winter gear from the Kinsmen Club, something students will put to good use as the weather gets colder. However, the gifts aren’t the only benefit. Feschuk said it’s important for students to have good role models in the community, and the Kinsmen Club members fill that role perfectly.

“It really flows along the line with some character education pieces that we talk about as a hidden curriculum,” Feschuk said. “We talk about setting good examples. We talk about leading by example. We talk about altruistic acts and making sure that there’s give-back to the place that you’re coming from, so to see the Kinsmen Club come in today and completely surprise staff and students, it just warms your heart.”

This is the third year the Kinsmen Club has donated and delivered gifts to a group of Prince Albert schools. It started with just one school in 2017, then increased to two in 2018 and four this year.

Jared Devers, the event chair for the 2019 Kinsmen Christmas Project, said they’d like to keep giving away presents in future years, but there is no guarantee.

“It all comes down to how much money we have at our disposal,” Devers said. “This year is the 100th anniversary of Kinsmen, so that’s partly the reason we moved it up a bit this year. We wanted to make a little bit bigger splash in the community. Obviously I’d love to do this event next year but I’m not saying that’s going to happen because it all depends on financials.”

The Kinsmen were able to keep costs down thanks to steep discounts from two major businesses, which allowed them to purchase both winter gear and wrapping paper at bargain prices. Devers said they also had a successful fundraising year.

They then partnered with Prince Albert’s Catholic and public school divisions to find out where the biggest need was. Originally, the Kinsmen wanted to give away toys, but were told too many students were coming to school in cold weather without proper attire. After hearing that, they switched from toys to gloves and touqes. After watching students gleefully rip away the paper and try on their new gifts, Devers said he’s confident they made the right decision.

“It lets you know that all that fundraising that you did all year long pays off,” he said.