Cochrane area children will be finding a little Christmas joy thanks to the Enmax Teddy Bear Toss, Calgary Hitmen, and volunteers of the Cochrane and Area Events Society (CAES).
This morning, the stuffies were picked up from the Hitmen and will now help fill the bus for this Saturday's 10th annual Stuff-A-Bus event in support of the Cochrane Activettes' Share Your Christmas campaign.
CAES acting president Marina Chabbert says they are delighted with how stuffies were provided from the event. They had originally requested 600 but are thrilled to receive so many for area youth.
"We are so happy with it," says Chabbert. "It is what it is and we get what we get and we are thrilled to receive anything really, because it all goes for the kids, so we're happy to get that."
The stuffies will be in the bus for Stuff-A-Bus this Saturday from 10 to 3 p.m. People are welcome to provide unwrapped toys to help fill the bus for the Share Your Christmas hampers.
Bookings are now being accepted online here for free e-photo sessions with Santa from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It's being held indoors at Canadian Tire and has the theme of Baking with Santa.
But you've got to move quickly. It's already filling up and might be fully sold out by the end of today.
Members of the Cochrane Activettes will also be in attendance at Stuff-A-Bus collecting nonperishable goods and cash donations.
The need has never been greater for the Share Your Christmas program. The Activettes have already received requests for over 400 hampers, 25 per cent more than last year.
It was four years ago that Chabbert reached out to the Hitmen to see if CAES could participate in the event. It's now become a tradition of the nonprofit community organization and was expanded this year to allow others to pitch in.
"This is the first year we've opened it up and purchased tickets to bring in more volunteers to help. Usually, we only come in with our committee volunteers but we decided to buy some tickets so more people can have the opportunity to help."
"It's so much fun, and it's heartwarming to see, says Chabbert.
The Hitmen pull out all the stops to create a fanfare game. Typically, they draw crowds in the 2,500 to 3,500 range. With so many families in attendance, it ballooned to over 16,500 for the game.
After all the stuffies are removed from the ice, hundreds of volunteers work behind the scene for a couple of hours to sort the stuffies by size and quantity to prepare them for prompt delivery to about 65 charities the next day.
"It was a lot of work," says Chabbert. "We worked fast, we worked hard, and but we got it done in a good time and it's a great satisfaction to know that every bag has been sorted and every bag has been counted and we're all done our work."
Chabbert and CAES secretary Erika Richards were once again assisted by Scott Willis, of Mountain Toys Cochrane in transporting the stuffies to Cochrane.
"From the very start of working with the Hitmen, he's been supporting us and offering to help to retrieve these bears," says Chabbert." We have a great community and we have a lot of businesses that support so many initiatives in town, so it's great that everybody pulls together."