The fourth annual Talk Tillsonburg Children Shop for Christmas gift-giving event may have been the best yet.
Fun for both the children who visited Upper Deck Saturday between 10-4 seeking a free present to give to their parents, and the youth who volunteered to help them find those presents, as well as manning the gift basket draw table.
For those who helped wrap presents, the most fun was seeing the reaction from children.
“Seeing how happy the kids are when they pick out a present that they like for their parents,” said Emily Christiaens.
It was busy Saturday morning as soon as they opened the doors.
“Right at 10 a.m.,” said Jillian McPherson.
Four hours later the evidence was piling up under their gift-wrapping tables, and by the end of the day 160 children had picked out a present for their mom and dad – and most of them wrapped by the Danscene and friends of Talk Tillsonburg volunteers.
The hardest gift to wrap?
“The circular ones,” said Brooklyn LeClair.
“The cylinders,” nodded Brooke Sanderson.
“Like that thing,” said McPherson.
“Like the water bottles,” said Emily Christiaens.
“Those were so hard,” Kennedy Elku.
“Kennedy, you bagged everything,” Christiaens noted.
“Hey! No!” Elku laughed.
The number of ‘shoppers’ Saturday surprised the young volunteers, who have been helping at Children Shop for Christmas for two, three and in most cases four years. Prior to Saturday, the most children they saw in the last three years was 90, but it was less last year.
“Surprised compared to last year,” nodded Brooklyn Kints.
“We are out of (gift) bags,” McPherson said to organizer Cathy Ryan during a break in wrapping.
“Again?” Ryan smiled.
They still had presents on both gift tables, which was a relief for Ryan who at 10:30 that morning had panicked wondering if they would have enough after 30 children visited in the first 30 minutes. The women’s gift table was still well stocked, she said, but men’s gifts had thinned out.
“Women were fine, but I was panicked about the men’s table. But we’re still good.
“I had to make a quick run over to the mall earlier today because we ran out of gift bags… and now we’re out of gift bags again.”
Ryan recalled one boy who picked out a present, but asked if he could wrap it himself when he got home.
“He’s actually my neighbour. I said, ‘Okay, but you have to hide it from your mom.’ So he did – he had his coat all wrapped around it carrying it out.”
Other than that one gift, she said the youth volunteers had been wrapping all day.
“Sometimes we had great big lineups – you couldn’t even get near any of the tables. As you can see, they’ve been working hard. They have been amazing. Some have been here all four years and some are just starting.
“I’m thrilled. It’s been an absolutely fun, amazing day,” added Ryan, who earlier had hoped to get 125 children. “A lot of food, a lot of treats. We were really low last year, but I opened it up to all kids this year and that makes a big difference. I like that it’s really busy.”
Ryan said they already started making plans for the 5th Annual Children Shop for Christmas in 2019 – including changing the event hours from 10-4 to 10-2.
“We’ve been talking about it trying to decide if we should shorten it.”
Santa Claus, who arrived after 12:30, was unable to visit the children who came in the morning. Next year, Ryan said she would encourage Santa to be there at 10.
“Four hours will fly by,” said Ryan. “If we go six hours there’s a bit of a lull and the kids get bored.”
Donations for the gift table continued to come in Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as cash donations. In total, Ryan said 10 local businesses generously contributed to the event.
“Tranquility, they were fabulous,” said Ryan. “They said, ‘I love what you do and it’s free.'”