Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The True Meaning of the "Giving Season" At McMan Youth Family and Community Services

I have been very fortunate, both in my life and in my adventure in this community. There are many services I have never had to use, but that I have always known were there should I need them. One of these is McMan Youth Family and Community Services.

McMan provides many services, chief among them a foster care program, and a family support service for families with children with disabilities. Now, I have a daughter, and both of these programs tear at my heart because they involve our most fragile and vulnerable citizens - children.

Now, McMan provides services to children and families year round, of course. There is a season fast approaching, though, and it's just around the corner - Christmas. At Christmas McMan goes just that one step further, and they host a private Christmas party for the children and families in their programs. The catch? McMan receives no funding to host this party, people. They have to do it with whatever donations they receive, from gifts to food to wrapping paper. This is not a simple feat when you are talking about a party for over two hundred people - and that number is growing yearly.

The party is very special, of course, because Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves visit. It's even more special, though, because the staff at McMan ensure that every single gift is specifically chosen for a child's individual needs. Many of the children require gifts that are geared to their specific abilities and interests, as we are talking about children with certain physical or sensory issues that make some toys unsuitable for them. So, the folks at McMan must consider every single child, and find a gift that is just perfect for them.

This need for very special attention to detail extends even to the food served at the party, as some of the children have issues that make certain foods difficult for them. So, the meals too are specialized and individualized, just right for every single child.

Santa coming to a children's Christmas party is the highlight for almost every child, of course, and yet with children with special needs this can be an area fraught with problems. The Santa at McMan, though, has been with them for a few years and it seems he must embody the very spirit of that jolly old elf as the children apparently warm to him quickly despite their occasional issues with new people and new situations. I find that absolutely lovely as every child should be able to feel the excitement and joy of seeing Santa arrive, regardless of their age or abilities.

Now, McMan is a bit different from other groups in one respect. This is the ONLY time of the year that they actively seek donations. This party is something they do on their own, with no funding available for it. It's that little bit extra, it's that little bit of love for the children, and it's that gift from them to these families. So, in order to do it, though, and to do it in the way these children (ALL children) deserve, they need help. What kind of help? Donations, people. Now, they need food, and wrapping paper, and decorations. They need gifts for the children. But most of all they need cash. Why cash? Because with cash they can purchase those very specific gifts and food for those very special children.

Look, I know at this time of year we all have a lot on our financial plate - gifts of our own to buy, food of our own to purchase, other charities to support - but people, this is really, really important. These children are our future, and these children could be your children - or mine. These children deserve to leave this party thinking it was the best Christmas party ever, and we have the power to give it to them. If you, like I, have been so fortunate in life, and in this community, then do me a favour and head down to McMan Youth Family and Community Services at 9916 Manning Avenue. You can also call them at 780-743-9721, or email Colleen. If you do nothing else this season to give back to the community - or even if you do dozens of other things - I guarantee this is the one you will feel best about. We are on the brink of the season of giving - so let's give to some children in our community who deserve the very, very best. Let's kick off this season with warmth and joy - and generousity of spirit, heart, and wallet.

Photo credit to Creative Minds and Hands

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