For 65 years, 630 CHED Santas Anonymous has made the holidays brighter for many families in the Edmonton area.
Nicole Middleton still remembers the day Santas Anonymous volunteers visited her home when she was just eight years old.
“I remember that a man came to the door with a box. The gifts were wrapped and it was a full box. We were shocked someone would bring presents by,” she said. “My mom thanked the gentleman. She was crying. We didn’t understand why.”
Middleton had five brothers and one sister and her mother was an emergency foster caregiver. She said money was particularly tight that year.
“To have a gift on Christmas day… you don’t expect it. It’s kind and it affected me for the rest of my life.”
Middleton also remembers opening her gift on Christmas morning: a princess lamp.
“It really personified finding light. That is wasn’t about stuff. It was about family,” she said.
“[That moment…] was the foundation to who I became. Santas Anonymous definitely created who I am.”
She has donated and volunteered for 630 CHED Santas Anonymous frequently. Her two children, Michael and Arthur, also volunteer.
“Now I get to hear stories about the families we helped. It’s pretty impactful,” she said.
Santas Anonymous helped Edmonton dad Blair Barton in 2011 and again in 2016.
“The stress as a parent… not being able to provide at Christmas can almost kill you,” Barton said.
LISTEN BELOW: Nicole Middleton shares her story of receiving a present from 630 CHED Santas Anonymous
Barton had moved to Edmonton to work as a crane operator. He said he’d been making good money until the economy soured and he was laid off.
“My life turned into a country western song… I lost the jeep, lost the dog, lost the house and the kids and I found myself in the position where I needed help,” he said. “You think you’re never going to be in that boat and that’s why this organization is there.”
At first, he was hesitant to reach out to Santas Anonymous.
“I was embarrassed. I always thought these things were meant for people who ‘needed it.’
“So, if I need it, then that means I’m one of those people,” he said. “It hits you in your heart and soul. It makes you feel special to know people want to help you.”
Barton began volunteering the same year he first reached out for help and remains a dedicated “elf” to this day.
“When you walk in the building… there’s a sense of love. I’m not trying to sound corny,” he laughed. “When you walk in, you feel uplifted. It doesn’t matter how bad your day is going.”
If you would like to register to receive gifts, the deadline to apply is Dec. 4.
On Tuesday, 630 CHED Santas Anonymous will be the focus on air for 630 CHED as the station looks to raise money to ensure every child has a gift under the tree this year.
You can donate to 630 CHED Santas Anonymous by calling 587-855-1821 or online here.