Delivering presents to the 10 children who have lost a parent to suicide or addiction this year proved to be an emotional journey for Sarah Stewart-Clark over the holidays.
Stewart-Clark, who is originally from Charlottetown but now lives in Valley, N.S., organized the “You Are Not Alone This Christmas” campaign to help spread some love and light to children who were facing their first Christmas without their mom or dad.
Stewart-Clark said this experience touched her greatly as she saw first-hand the impact this loss has had on these families.
“I think what confirmed to me that this was an important thing to do was the sadness and the level of struggle in the eyes of the parents or grandparents who are raising these children,” said Stewart-Clark in an interview with The Guardian. “This really did help them get through Christmas, which was a struggle for a lot of them.”
Stewart-Clark, who also runs Island Mothers Helping Mothers, said the campaign raised more than $4,000 in cash and gift donations.
“It went better than I had expected,” admits Stewart-Clark. “I strongly felt that we needed to support these families, but I didn’t know if anyone else would feel that way.”
Stewart-Clark said this was validated when Dan and Kathy Viau of the Toy Factory in New Glasgow made a significant donation of $1,134.75 worth of toys, play sets and games.
Individuals and groups also made donations, either privately or through the “You Are Not Alone This Christmas” GoFundMe page.
“It touched me a great deal,” said Stewart-Clark of the support she received from Islanders. “I’m so grateful to everyone in the community who responded.”
Breakdown of cash and gift donations received by the ‘You Are Not Alone This Christmas’ campaign:
- $1,365 from the GoFundMe page
- $1,134.75 worth of toys donated by The Toy Factory in New Glasgow
- $400 in cash donations from Montague Regional High School, St. Pius X Roman Catholic Parish Catholic Women’s League and private donors
- $1,137.56 of toys donated by private individuals
She also had some help from two members of Island Mothers Helping Mothers - Suzi Deblois of Charlottetown and Colleen Ryder of Mermaid.
Deblois wrapped every single gift, and Ryder helped Stewart-Clark deliver presents in Kings County.
Stewart-Clark and her family delivered the gifts in Queens and Prince County.
All gifts were delivered Dec. 23 and Dec. 24.
“I didn’t expect it to be such an emotional exchange,” said Stewart-Clark. “There were a lot of hugs and a lot of tears.”
Stewart-Clark said one highlight included a 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome from Kings County who played a musical song.
“It was such a beautiful moment.”
Another included the heartwarming reaction from one of the older children after she was given a necklace engraved with the word ‘”mom” along with a birthstone and angel wings.
“It was nice we were able to help the youngest to the oldest children,” said Stewart-Clark.
The ages ranged from one year old to 30 years old.
Stewart-Clark said these gifts showed the families that there is a community outside of their home who supports them and feels protective of these children.
“They belong to a community who cares enough for them to try and do what they can to help a family through a very difficult Christmas.”