Santa’s Angels spread cheer to Charlottetown families

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Every year sees more and more support for Santa Claus’ annual visit in Charlottetown.

The jolly man in red lugged his big bag of toys to more than 100 homes Wednesday to spread some holiday cheer to children in families whose Christmas has been affected by poverty, illness or substance abuse.

The group, Santa’s Angels, raises funds and items all year for the big day.

Now in its 10th year, the group’s visits have grown to include six Santas delivering along seven routs in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall.

“We’re even going out to Hunter River for a couple houses,” said organizer Kenny Zakem, adding that the group also visits the area hospitals, Sherwood Home and provincial addictions facility. “Every year it’s been getting bigger and bigger and people have been great. They’ve been very generous.”

Don Wright, who has a beard just like Saint Nick and the suit to match, has been dressing up as Santa since starting the event with Zakem 10 years ago.

He continues to put on the suit every year after seeing the difference it makes to children who otherwise wouldn’t receive much for Christmas.

 “You should see their faces, how happy they are,” said Wright. “And this year, it’s been the best year yet.”

However, the group doesn’t just bring joy to children.

Prepared bags for families include turkey, a hamper of food and much more.

“Clothes and gift cards, ornaments and coffee. Everything,” said Wright, who also carries a number of unassigned items in case the group finds a family along the route that had slipped through the cracks.

Of course, Santa doesn’t get to so many houses without some help.

Apart from the growing number of volunteers, the group has also launched a website where family’s can submit a form with a contact number.

The group then calls back to get the children’s ages, clothing size, whether they’ll be home on Christmas morning and all other information.

From baby formula to mp3 players, electronic tablets and more, the bags are then made specifically for the family’s wishes.

“It’s been a lot easier that way,” said Zakem.

He said it’s also been discovered that the visit from Santa often means more to the families than the actual gifts.

“We’ve gotten some comments that were ‘hey, it didn’t matter if you brought us anything. The visit made the day’,” said Zakem.

Already with sights on next year, Zakem said the goal is to keep spreading the cheer further across the province.

“We’re talking about doing more and more for next year, getting out earlier and doing more fundraisers,” he said. “The goal is eventually to visit everybody on the whole Island.”

To donate or find out more information about the volunteer group, individuals can visit www.santasangels.ca

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Cornwall, Hunter River

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