Christmas charity success inspires selfless students

High school students mustered every ounce of magical Christmas feelings they have for the Santa’s Anonymous program

Ponoka Composite High School students pack 115 hampers of food for the 31st annual Santa’s Anonymous program. The hampers where delivered Dec. 19.

High school students mustered every ounce of magical Christmas feelings they have for the Santa’s Anonymous program, but some students feel even their best isn’t enough.

“I wish there were more programs like this all year round, not just at Christmas,” said Grady Wygiera.

Ponoka Composite High School’s Santa’s Anonymous program created 115 hampers for needy families. The program began 31 years ago and because of students like Wygiera, and the support of the community, it’s still going strong.

Preparations for the program started back in October and approximately 50 donation boxes were distributed throughout the community in November. “Each kid had about five or six places to look after,” said staff organizer Karen David.

By Dec. 12 the boxes were collected and brought to storage rooms at Diamond Willow Middle School. Due to renovations, high school students weren’t able to run the program from there as they usually do. David says the high school is grateful to Diamond Willow for how accommodating they’ve been.

Students then spent several classes sorting, wrapping, loading, delivering hampers, as well as cleaning up the rooms at the middle school they occupied.

Once every hamper was filled with food and children’s gifts there was still a room full of toys left over, which will be kept in reserve for next year’s hampers. “Knowing that we get to make some kid’s Christmas is amazing. It means that we get to help somebody else that’s less fortunate,” said high school student Autumn Hewitt.

“It makes you feel good about yourself too because you’re not just being selfish, you’re helping someone that needs the help,” said Grady.

Classmate Damion Mandryk feels giving is better than receiving when it comes to the holidays. ‘That’s what our coach is always telling us,” said Hewitt, referring to PE teacher Scott MacGregor, who’s also involved with the program.

“I think Santa’s Anonymous in particular is a really unique chance. This is positive energy, and positive energy is good,” added Graham Buffalo-Jackson.

Buffalo-Jackson feels programs such as Santa’s Anonymous can’t have a positive influence on the world without people supporting them and giving the needed push.

Once every hamper was packed and ready to be loaded, more than a dozen students and other members of the high school community, including vice-principal Kathy McTaggart, spent approximately two hours, in –20 degree weather, delivering them.

High school student Marena Stamm and younger sister Isabell, who attends Crestomere School, did their work with unwavering smiles and cheer for every hamper recipient, including a family with six children.

“I’m helping because I wanted to get a charity for my 4-H club,” said Isabell. “I think it’s a really great thing to hand out food and presents to people who can’t get it for themselves, so they still get the Christmas they deserve.”

Marena Stamm has been involved with Santa’s Anonymous for three years. “When I first heard about it I thought it was so cool. I wish we did more.”

The biggest reason Stamm decided to participate again this year was because of an experience from last year’s deliveries.

Stamm and a friend delivered a hamper to an older couple living in a trailer park. The woman was adamant she wanted to pay for the hamper and the girls’ time. “People like that make you realize how amazing people are, no matter what situation they’re in.”

Despite how much Stamm likes the program she believes it shouldn’t be as special as it is because it shouldn’t be as rare as it is. “I feel like everyone should be doing this, it isn’t special.”

To Stamm and her sister, helping out was a natural instinct. “Everyone can use a little help.”

“Or give a little help,” added Isabell.

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