‘Family’ at North Delta pub help spread holiday cheer

Volunteers from Kennedy's Sports Pub raised funds and collected donations all year in order to give 30 families a very merry Christmas.

It’s a snowy Friday night in December, the kind where every sound seems muffled and the dark is cut by a preternatural glow emanating from the soft, white blanket covering every inch of the city. It’s tranquil, soothing. Almost otherworldly.

Inside the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre it’s a whole other story. The room is a bustle of chatter, music and movement as two dozen volunteers from Kennedy’s Sports Pub wrap presents and fill boxes with donated food.

For over two decades, the pub’s patrons have taken upon themselves to make sure as many of their neighbours as possible are able to have a proper Christmas, including presents and a real turkey dinner, and this year the pub raised $21,145, enough to sponsor 30 families in need.

Family is a word the comes up frequently when talking to tonight’s volunteers. In fact, the first impression upon walking into the room is one of ball-busting familiarity and affection. People tease each other from across the room as they count out cans of soup or eyeball lengths of gift wrap.

It might be below freezing outside, but in here it couldn’t be warmer.

Ed Kennedy and pal Umberto share a laugh as they divvy out donated food into individual care packages. Photo credit: Shiela Thiele

Ed Kennedy and pal Umberto share a laugh as they divvy out donated food into individual care packages. Photo credit: Shiela Thiele

“It’s a neighbourhood pub and everybody here cares for everyone here, and they care for the families in the neighbourhood,” says longtime pub patron Ed Kennedy. “We have a lot of fun and banter at the pub, and when it comes to this, it’s all about what we can do for the kids out there and the people that are less fortunate.”

Kennedy, like many of the volunteers, has participated in the event for 20-odd years. Many have travelled to make it here tonight, from other parts of the Lower Mainland as well as places much further afield.

Tracy Comber, who helped start the event 25 years ago, now lives in Penticton, but doesn’t let that stop her from coming to help out every year or from making the trip down for the various fundraising events during the year leading up to this night. She says the event is just as important and rewarding now as it was a quarter century ago.

“I don’t know that that much has changed. It’s always been a community thing where people get together and they help each other and everybody puts in their heart and soul,” Comber says. “We still did the same amount of families back then, but we did it in the back of the warehouse over at the Safeway. It was spooky [but] it was fun.”

Far from a one-night affair, the whole pub family contributes year-round to make this a success. One man named Cookie (“Just Cookie,” he says) holds an annual pig roast at Kennedy’s. Another, Candy (real name this time) Buckley- Parker brings in fresh baked cookies every Thursday and runs the meat draw every Saturday.

Candy Buckley-Parker is all smiles as she wraps presents destined for families in need this Christmas. Photo credit: Shiela Thiele

Candy Buckley-Parker is all smiles as she wraps presents destined for families in need this Christmas. Photo credit: Shiela Thiele

Anytime there’s an event at the pub, they sell 50/50 tickets to help support the Christmas care packages. And every November, the pub holds its annual fundraiser dinner, complete with door prizes and silent auction items donated by local businesses.

“It goes all year long. It’s not just one person…It’s a community effort,” Comber says.

Ask around and you’ll find that what keeps these people coming back year after year after year is the difference they make to the families they help.

“Seeing the people’s faces actually when they deliver these to the people who are less fortunate, that’s a big one, that is a huge,” Kennedy says. “It’s just seeing the joy. You don’t realise how lucky you are. You really don’t.”

“It’s that big smile on the kids’ faces,” says Cookie. “It sometimes turns your heart the other way and makes you teary. It’s an experience, but it’s fun to do. I’m glad to be part of the group.”

Bar manager Sue Boyd says many of the people they help come back in subsequent years and pay that kindness forward.

“You know what? Even when we deliver, people say, ‘Can we help next year? We really want to help,’” Boyd says. “They’re like, ‘We had a bad year, but next year’s gonna be better and we really want to help.’ It’s really nice.”

As the night winds down, one volunteer who made the trek from Princeton sums up exactly what makes the event special.

“We’re not giving hand-outs, we’re giving a hands-up. This is what Christmas is all about.”

Just Posted

Syrian family can, finally, feel safe

Anglican Church of the Holy Trinity White Rock meets sponsored family for the first time

Former Surrey MP Gurmant Grewal supports Bernier’s new party

Gurmant Grewal has thrown his lot in with Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party of Canada

Road closures as Surrey firefighters battle propane blaze

Surrey RCMP control traffic as firefighers fight fire at Pacific Propane Container Recycling

Cloverdale, Langley Thanksgiving food drive collects ‘record-breaking’ amount of food

Annual food drive collected 35,000 lbs of food for Langley Food Bank

Proposal seeks to replace Surrey Knight & Day with 25-storey highrise

Surrey council is set to consider the application for the first time tonight, submitted on behalf of Square Nine King George Development

‘Fire tornado’ erupts as firefighters battle interior B.C. wildfire

Firefighters near Vanderhoof were taken by surprise

Abdelrazik torture lawsuit delay would be unconscionable: lawyer

The federal government is making a last-minute plea to delay the Federal Court hearing

Trudeau upset after meeting with Saskatchewan chiefs

Trudeau is upset about how time was managed in a recent meeting

Woman from Surrey killed in head-on collision in Chilliwack Saturday

Witnesses in the vehicle struck told first responders the woman appeared to be asleep at the wheel

B.C. tent city ‘devastated’ after flash flood

Maple Ridge mayor says that residents shouldn’t have to return to their flooded tents

Filipino-Canadians concerned about family after typhoon hits Philippines

Typhoon Mangkhut has killed 66 people in the Philippines and four in China

Ottawa looks at having retired judge help guide renewed pipeline review process

The feds would only says that ‘multiple options were on the table’

Canada bans use of trans fats in food products

Trans fats are know to cause heart disease

Yukon suspect in B.C. mail bombing makes court appearance

Whitehorse man Leon Nepper faces charges related to a mail bomb sent to a Port Alice home Sept. 11

Most Read