Santa’s Elves is a program that started in 1971 in Bonnyville, and every year since then Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) collects new unwrapped toys and gifts for kids and families who are in need during the Christmas Season. However, this year the Santa’s Elves community wrapping party has been canceled due to the pandemic.
Every year the Lakeland community comes together to spread cheer as toys and gifts for kids up to the age of 17 are donated from the greater Bonnyville area, sorted at the school, and wrapped in preparation for delivery.
Mark Centazzo is the Principal of BCHS.
“In the past, the community has volunteered on a single night in December, at the school to wrap the hundreds of gifts that are donated,” Centazzo told Lakeland Connect. “Thanks to the generosity and participation of the community and local businesses, the BCHS Santa’s Elves program gathered, packed, and wrapped gifts for over 400 children in the 2019 Christmas campaign.”
Last year due to COVID-19 the bags of toys and gifts were replaced by gift cards that were purchased with monetary donations from the community and local businesses. The program again helped over 400 children at Christmas.
“Unfortunately, the community wrapping party cannot take place this year due to COVID, but for Christmas 2021 we are excited to be able to collect and sort actual gifts again,” Centazzo told Lakeland Connect. “The wrapping will be done by the students and staff at BCHS on December 13.”
Each year BCHS also works in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus as they run their Christmas hamper program.
“Families in need can register to receive a hamper of groceries for the holiday season,” Centazzo said. “These hampers are an impressive collection of food items that will help families during a time of year that can be financially challenging.”
The registration form for the hampers also gives families a chance to request a gift package for their children from newborn to 17 years of age.
“Names of the families are kept confidential by the Knights of Columbus,” Centazzo said. “The school sorts and wraps gifts based on age and gender identified by each family. Then the Knights of Columbus deliver the grocery hampers, and each family also receives gifts for their children.”
It is only through the generosity and diligent contributions of staff, students, and the community in the Bonnyville area that makes this endeavor possible, Centazzo says.
“By supporting BCHS Santa’s Elves, the community is helping ensure that our local children can celebrate Christmas,” Centazzo said. “Toys and gifts are being collected at Ducharme Motors, The Red Apple, and at BCHS.”
The deadline for toy and gift donations is December 7, and monetary donations are accepted until January.
“Any donations not used this year, are stored to assist the start of the program for the following Christmas,” Centazzo said.