Three North Delta girls are once again hard at work to help make sure that every kid has a chance to unwrap a gift on Christmas morning.
For the third year in a row, Emma Vanderlee (11), Makayla Bennett (11) and Jennyka Cozzuol (12) are collecting toys and donations to benefit BC Children’s Hospital, and this year they’re also selling wreaths, jar candles, slime and hot chocolate reindeer through school Christmas fairs and on Facebook.
“[We’re] collecting donations and toys for the kids at BC Children’s Hospital that don’t really get to go home for Christmas, so we can help them experience Christmas with their families by getting them gifts and money to buy gifts and all that,” Jennyka said.
Last year the trio dropped off roughly 75 toys they’d collected, plus $1,220 in cash donations.
This year, with an eye on topping 2017’s totals, they expanded their operation by selling some their crafts on Facebook with the help of their parents, under the moniker of Kids With Helping Hands. (Social media for the fledgling organization is expected to be up and running in the new year.)
“We’re selling hot chocolate reindeer, wreaths, slime, and we’ve so far gotten a lot of donation money, and so we’re making all of this stuff for Facebook,” Jennyka said
“So far, in total, [just from] the online hot chocolate reindeer, we’ve made probably $120,” Emma added.
“I want to double what we did last year,” Jennyka said.
The girls began collecting donations for Children’s Hospital in 2016 after visiting Surrey Memorial’s pediatric ward. The trip inspired them to do what they could to make sure that kids who have to spend the holidays in hospital still get to enjoy a merry Christmas.
“I think it’s important because since they can’t go home, I want [the hospital] to be kind of like home for Christmas,” Makayla told the Reporter in 2017.
The three girls brought the idea of holding a toy drive to Jennyka’s mom, who in turn brought it to her work, North Delta’s Sundowner Pub.
The girls decorated a box where pub patrons could drop off their donations, and managed to collect roughly $3,000 worth of toys and $650 in cash that first year.
This year’s campaign draws inspiration from a little closer to home.
“There’s a kid at our school and he was in Grade 1 when he got cancer, and he’s in Grade 2 right now and he just came back to school,” Jennyka said, adding he missed roughly a year of school. “So it was kind of my goal this year to raise money because then it would be like I’m helping him kind of.”
“Because he still has to go through treatments,” Emma added. “So that’s another reason why we want to help, especially now.”
|(from left) Jennyka Cozzuol, Emma Vanderlee and Makayla Bennett with their Compassion and Empathy awards at the 2018 Delta Rotary Youth Awards on May 30, 2018. (Kelly Vanderlee photo)|
On May 30, 2018, Emma, Makayla and Jennyka were honoured at the Delta Rotary Youth Awards, winning the Compassion and Empathy award for their efforts to make sure kids who have to stay in hospital over the holidays still get to enjoy the magic of Christmas.
“It was a little bit scary at first because we were first and when I was in the front I had no idea where to go,” Makayla said.
“It was very, very exciting, just to think everybody’s looking at our stuff and seeing that we’ve done all of this.” Jennyka said.
“We were standing there, [and] there was someone saying a bunch of stuff about what we did,” she continued. “And it was kind of scary and I was kind of nervous because people were staring at us and I find that weird when people stare at me, but I got used to it after a while.”
“I think we had to shake people’s hands and I think they were pretty [important people],” Emma said. “That was exciting but I was also nervous.”
This year’s toy drive will happen on Monday, Dec. 10 at the Sundowner Pub (11970 64th Ave.), from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but donations can be dropped off between now and then.
If the item is too big to go in the box, donors can call the pub at 604-591-7974 and arrange to drop it off.