Special needs school helping families of Calgary students at Christmas
The families of children with disabilities involved with a Calgary support program will be receiving some good cheer this holiday in the form of Christmas hampers.
The EvenStart for Children Foundation, in partnership with the Heartland Agency, organize and supply hampers for 147 families in need this Christmas season. The hampers go to families of children who are registered in it's education and treatment programs.
Brianna Parkhill is the programs and services director and says EvenStart is a special education preschool program for kids aged three, four and five from backgrounds of abuse, trauma and neglect, poverty and low-income families.
"All of our children have a disability of some kind," said Parkhill. "Whether it is a speech and language delay, occupational therapy delay, a behavior support that they're in need of help with so all of our children have one or more of those."
The hamper program was first introduced when they school started out in the mid-1990s. Families fill out a form about their needs and wants along with ages and sizes.
That information is then given to donors who either write a check or shop for them. Parkhill says a hamper typically runs around $900. Staff volunteer their time to sort, wrap and deliver them to families.
"We're not trying to make everybody's entire Christmas, we're just trying to help them ease a little bit of the pressure off that comes with our families," said Parkhill. "So that they can focus on making sure they can pay the gas, pay the heat, get the food and they have a few things to give the kids underneath the tree for Christmas time."
Staff not only volunteer their time but also make thank you Christmas ornaments for the 125 donors every year.
"These kids play a huge role in our lives and take up a huge spot in our hearts," said site manager Brianna Kelly. "Everybody comes in happy and wants to be a part of it, yeah, it's just it's a great feeling around here during this time."
All five of Tasha Griffiths children have gone to EvenStart and she's received a few Christmas hampers over the years.
"Sometimes can be really hard at this time of year," said Griffiths. "And when we have other struggles like disabilities and developmental (issues), this just takes one of the things off the table that we have to worry about."
Griffiths is thankful to the donors who give not only what the family needs like pots and pans and even bed sheets, but gift cards and even presents for parents.
"Mom and dads, we don't really get gifts, we always worry about our children," said Griffiths. "So this program specifically makes sure that the parents as well are involved and included so as a whole we get to open gifts on Christmas together, its really big."
The lists have been given to donors and the shopping has begun. On Dec. 13 and 14, volunteers will collect all the hampers.
"We bring them back here, we sort them on to five U-haul trucks and then on Dec. 15 every one of those hampers are delivered by our staff to our families," said Parkhill.
Learn more about the hamper program online.
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