24,200(+) reasons to celebrate the season

Wayne Young
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With Christmas Day only four sleeps away, some big numbers in the news this week clearly show Islanders have embraced the spirit of the season.

It’s the spirit of giving and of showing compassion and empathy for those who could use a helping hand, or simply a brightener on a dreary day.

By far the biggest number an anticipated 20,000 when this column went to press was a heartwarming story out of Summerside that has been making news around the world. A few weeks ago, Mark Enman appealed for as many people as possible to send a card to his parents. They’re both in long-term care, and both suffer from dementia. On the Facebook page he created, Mark explained his mother cherished the tradition of sending Christmas cards and that one of her favourite movies was Miracle on 34th Street, especially the scene where mailbags filled with letters addressed to Santa were dumped on the judge’s bench.

“I want that same miracle for them,” he wrote. “This would mean the world to them … I would love to see their rooms flooded with Christmas cards.”

And flood is really the best way to describe the response. From across the Island and as far away as New Zealand, Europe and Asia the cards flooded in to the Summerset Manor. I’d be surprised if there’s a dry eye in the place when they’re presented to the Enmans later today.

The story took off because it encompasses everything good about the season thoughtful children who genuinely wanted to make their parents’ Christmas a little brighter in their struggle with dementia, and thousands upon thousands of empathetic card-writers who were determined to make their miracle come true.

It was also possible because of a merge between new and traditional communication modes spreading the word through social media (Facebook), then using “snail mail” to ensure the cards were delivered on time through Canada Post.

Another big number in the news this week 4,200 also represents the goodness of Islanders, this time to ensure everyone will be able to gather their families around the table for a traditional meal on Christmas Day. It was the annual CBC turkey drive and once again, it was a smashing success. The number is double-edged, of course, because it also means thousands of Islanders are finding it tough to make ends meet and are in need of extra help, especially at Christmastime. More can and must be done to address the root causes of this growing problem but until then, there’s no question that the turkey drive and a myriad of other fundraising efforts are absolutely necessary.

Fundraisers like Gary Woodhouse’s Christmas home in Johnstons River sequenced lights meticulously synchronized to music. He’s turned it into a fundraiser for Santa’s Angels, a group of volunteers who deliver presents and food to needy families on Christmas morning. Or Jim Cobham’s miniature Christmas village, a remarkable display that now covers a good part of the first floor of his Tignish home. He hosted an open house earlier this month that served as a fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation, and he’s also accepting donations of non-perishable goods for the food bank.

In Summerside, Police Chief Dave Poirier is being “locked up” today, part of the police department’s Cops for Christmas Food and Toy Drive. He’ll stay inside a police van at Credit Union Place until the van is filled with new toys and non-perishable food items that will assist families through the Salvation Army. And while Christmas is for kids, a caring group of Islanders make sure those at the other end of the spectrum aren’t forgotten, either, through the Be a Santa to a Senior campaign.

From telethons and concerts to Enman’s novel call for Christmas cards and a myriad of other fundraisers, it seems Islanders are always there to help.

It’s impossible to put a number on all the acts of caring and kindness that occur this Christmas season, but the estimated total of 24,200 in just the turkey campaign and the Enmans’ Christmas card appeal begins to show how generous Islanders really are.

And that’s definitely something worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas!

- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

Organizations: Holland College, Canada Post, CBC Wish Foundation Credit Union Place Salvation Army

Geographic location: Summerside, 34th Street, Iceland New Zealand Europe Asia Johnstons River Tignish Charlottetown

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