Canadian Mental Health Association helping members with Christmas gifts

Maureen Coulter
Published on December 18, 2015

Sharon Claybourne, left, incoming White Cross co-ordinator, Keith McQuillan, White Cross recepient, and Judy Cheverie, outgoing White Cross co-ordinator.

©Heather Taweel/The Guardian

The Christmas season can be a difficult and emotional time for many Islanders as the world around them is merry and full of cheer.

For some it is a time of sadness, depression and loneliness from the added stresses of the holidays or grieving the loss of a loved one.

It can be especially hard for those who are already suffering from a mental or emotional disorder.

To help with the Christmas blues, the White Cross program, run through the Canadian Mental Health Association P.E.I. division, puts on recreational activities and a gift exchange to get their members through the holidays.

The White Cross Christmas gift program is their largest event where organizers distribute gifts to approximately 700 people Island-wide with a mental or emotional disorder so that they have a little something to open Christmas morning.

“Some people are ashamed of their family member with mental illness and won’t give them anything for Christmas,” said Judy Cheverie, co-ordinator of the White Cross Christmas program.

To help reach all corners of mental health, gifts are handed out to the Fitzroy Centre, McGill Centre, Richmond Centre, Lacey House and Unit 9 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.

Most will receive socks, deodorant, a toothbrush and toothpaste with some individualized gifts when possible, said Cheverie.

“If we know somebody would love to go to a movie but could never afford to go then we get them a gift card.”

Sharon Claybourne, who is in training to take over for Cheverie, said the gifts help brighten the lives of those individuals.

“White Cross Christmas brings a little bit of joy and cheer to some people so that they know there’s people out there that care,” said Claybourne.

Knowing that people care is the part that Keith McQuillan likes about the program.

McQuillan has received gifts from the White Cross Christmas gift program for 27 years and looks forward to it ever year.

“It makes you feel better,” said McQuillan. “You think that sometimes people don’t care and you get that one gift and it makes you feel better knowing that people are out there that care and want to make you happy.”

To make a donation visit the Canadian Mental Health Association P.E.I. division or call 902-566-4463 for more information.