Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Santas Anonymous and Knight Lights: Youth Changing the World

There are a few things I am passionate about, but perhaps nothing more so than the youth of our community and our world. As the caretaker of a young woman who astonishes me in every way and every single day I see the incredible potential of our youth, and how their initiative and drive can change the world. At this time of year, during the Christmas season, I see so many examples of this locally, and in two cases I am both amazed and humbled by the young people involved: Santas Anonymous and Holy Trinity Teens for Change, a group that hosts the Knight Lights Fair Trade Market on an annual basis.

Santas Anonymous operates out of Father Mercredi High School. I have had the honour of writing about this initiative for YMM Magazine, and I continue to be astonished at the good work they do in our region. This largely student organized and driven movement collects food, toys and other items for distribution in the community to allow individuals and families who may be struggling to celebrate the holidays. I have been there on packing day when the hampers are carefully packed for each family, gifts for each child lovingly selected and wrapped by young hands. I have been there on delivery day, and I have been one of the drivers who did deliveries, seeing the faces of the recipients and finding in them the true joy and meaning of the season.

Santas Anonymous is an incredible group, one that has touched the lives and hearts of thousands of residents of this region, and perhaps what has impacted me the most was the gentle sincerity of the youth involved. Most are too young to understand or know the low points of life, when a kind word or gesture can mean the difference between falling into deep sorrow and seeing a glimmer of hope. I think they know they are doing something special and something positive, but I suspect they don't fully understand exactly how amazing what they are doing is, and how they are quietly changing the lives of people in our community. I know, though, because I have spoken to recipients of the program who have told me in tears of times when things were so very bad that they were in despair, overcome with sadness at their inability to provide their families with a celebration - and their deep gratitude when a delivery from Santas Anonymous arrived, changing not only their holiday but their life.

Santas Anonymous will hold their annual Miracle Marathon on the weekend of December 12 and 13, and will be accepting donations of food, toys, and money at local Save-On Foods locations with the help of friends from Rock 97.9 FM and Country 93.3 FM (and those radio stations and Save-On Foods deserve a special mention and thank you for their kind support of this initiative and their community involvement, too). That weekend is an ideal opportunity to chat with some local youth and see their passion for helping others, an inspiring thing to witness at this time of year when the holiday spirit can be a bit trampled after hours spent trudging through the mall. And no matter how weary we may get, Santas Anonymous has now been going strong for thirty years, fuelled by the youthful energy and passion of those who have made Christmas happen for hundreds of people in our region every single year for three decades.

And speaking of local youth, passion and holiday spirit, on Monday, December 1 the Holy Trinity Teens for Change will host their annual Knight Lights Fair Trade Market, an event I have attended every single year and continue to regard with both delight and pleasure as it connects our local youth with those far, far away.

Teen for Change is a youth social justice group working with Free the Children and Me to We to promote and encourage social change throughout the world. This group, through the wildly successful fair trade market, has raised an amazing amount of funds for various initiatives around the world. The fair trade market boasts a variety of goods from artisans in other countries, all sold at fair price to ensure the makers of the goods have been fairly compensated for their wares. I have gone every year and every year have walked away with something new as either a gift or for myself, and a renewed belief in the ability of our youth to truly impact our world in positive ways. Teens for Change is again primarily student organized and driven, and the fair trade market has become a part of our holiday season in the region in just a few short years, showing exactly how popular the concept is.

The Knight Lights Fair Trade Market, this year themed "One Small Step for Man, One Huge Leap for Mankind" takes place on Monday, December 1 at Holy Trinity High School, with doors opening at 6 pm and admission costing only $10. If you have never been before I highly recommend attending this event - because I guarantee you will not only be impressed but that you will add it to your yearly calendar of must-attend events.

So folks, there you have it. Honestly I get tired just writing about it, but in our community there are these incredibly energetic, passionate and motivated youth like those at Father Mercredi and Holy Trinity who are spending their precious extracurricular time (and I know it is precious, as I recall those days well) to improve the lives of others both in our community and around the world. I commend the Fort McMurray Catholic School Board, the staff and teachers at both schools, and especially the students for their dedication and devotion to making the world a better place. Through their efforts everyone in this community is given the opportunity to help them make that difference, through our donations or volunteering for Santas Anonymous and our support of the Knight Lights Fair Trade Market. So, let's support our local youth as they change the world, one teddy bear, one Christmas dinner and one fair trade market at a time.

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