Christmas is meant to be a time to spend with family and friends. It's a time to share joy and kindness with others. Sadly, for many elderly people living alone in nursing homes, it can be extremely difficult.

Nine years ago, Vera Wiranta Yates created the Caring Hearts Card Drive with these seniors in mind. She wanted to let them know they are not forgotten; that someone is thinking of them.

“We can bring a smile to their faces and brighten their holiday season simply by sharing our love of card making,” she writes.

Yesterday, grade 9 students of Bow Valley High School worked away like Santa’s elves to help fulfill that vision.

In all, 200 Christmas cards were prepared, each with a personal message from the student creating the card. The school’s grade 9 students have now been doing this for three years and this is the first time it has been included as one of the activities in their Career and Life Management (CALM) program. CALM is designed to engage students in meaningful and empathetic activities and is a required course.

BVHS educational assistant Rita Andrews, who is also the Western Canadian representative for the Caring Hearts Card Drive, prepared the card kits for the students to assemble. Each writes a heart-warming message, which they are invited to sign, then assemble the elements of the kit to create a lasting memory for its recipient.

After the class settles in, Bow Valley teacher Carrie Zunti, who is also a member of the school's CALM team, explains how important these cards are to their recipients.

“Some of them do not have families anymore, their friends may have passed on, their loved ones, maybe their sons and daughters, may have also passed on,” she explains in part. “So come Christmas, there’s a loneliness.”

Then after viewing two brief videos on the topic, it was down to work. There’s a buzz in the air and many students share grins of satisfaction in knowing they are making a difference.

“To put it in a nutshell, this is a random act of kindness, one which carries great meaning both for the card maker and the recipient,” says Andrews. “It is powerful!”

Some of Rita Andrew's handmade cards.Andrews is a talented card maker and takes great joy and pride in her creations. When she learned about Caring Hearts several years ago she stepped forward to volunteer her time. This year, she has already received over 1,300 cards from card makers across Canada and was delighted to recently receive a package of handmade cards from the Netherlands. With the help of her husband Len, family members and others, many of the cards are distributed locally while the others will bring a warm glow to the elderly in other communities and provinces.

“Within the next few weeks, I will take those cards and distribute them.”

Card makers from all over the world participate in the Caring Hearts Card drive, including Canada, US, United Kingdom and Australia.