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Students aim to make seniors smile on Christmas morning

Some seniors in long-term care homes wouldn't receive a Christmas present if it weren't for donors
The Huntington University Gerontology Society (HUGS) recently wrapped up its Christmas Giving Tree campaign, where 75 gifts were purchased for seniors living in local long-term care homes who wouldn't otherwise have received a Christmas gift. From left are HUGS members Theresa Rost, Brittany MacGowan and Laura Palmer. Photo by Heidi Ulrichsen. 

Seventy-five seniors living in three long-term care facilities in Greater Sudbury will be able to unwrap presents bought just for them on Christmas morning thanks to the efforts of local students.

The second annual Christmas Giving Tree campaign was put on by the Huntington University Gerontology Society (HUGS).

The participating care homes — Pioneer Manor, Finlandia Village and Extendicare York — were asked for a list of presents to purchase for the seniors, and they were written on tags put up on a Christmas tree.

Then students, staff, faculty and community members purchased and beautifully wrapped the gifts.

“It's wonderful,” said Laura Palmer, president of HUGS. “When it started last year, it was more than I would have ever imagined it would be. Last year my hope was we could purchase 20 gifts, and we ended up with 50.

“This year … we've got 75 gifts to pass along to residents, and it's really nice to see. I'm walking down the hallways here at Huntington, and people stop me just to say how excited they were to buy the gifts and they're excited to know they're going to help someone out on Christmas Day.”

Some seniors living in care facilities have no one to celebrate Christmas with, said Jenna Delamorandiere, volunteer program co-ordinator at Finlandia Village.

It could be that their family is dead or lives far away, she said.

To make their day a bit brighter, Finlandia works with various community organizations to make sure these seniors aren't forgotten, and receive a Christmas gift, Delamorandiere said.

“Our PSW staff, nursing staff and recreation staff on Christmas morning hand out the presents to residents and spend one-on-one time with these folks and enjoy the Christmas spirit with them,” she said.

“It means a whole lot. I always reach out to the staff and ask them how the morning went, and they always find it so moving. It's probably one of their favourite times of the year, to see the reactions of the residents.”

She said what the students are doing through their Christmas Giving Tree campaign is “absolutely amazing.”

“Last year was our first year participating in the program, and we couldn't believe how quickly gift tags were taken off the tree, and presents were purchased, and very generously — they asked for additional names,” she said.

“I think it's fantastic. It's a big part of what our community stands for. It's a very giving community, and it all starts from the young.”

Huntington president Kevin McCormick commended the HUGS members for the initiative.

“This campaign is a prime example of how lessons move beyond the classroom to have a greater impact in the community at large,” he said, in a press release.

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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