Global Calgary has partnered with four local charities for the Month of Giving this December.
The Magic of Christmas is one of them and while the charity has implemented safety measures during the pandemic, it will continue to reach as many families in need, as possible.
Every Christmas Eve, Santa and his elves board transit buses for the Magic of Christmas to deliver gifts to hundreds of families.
Khan Zaheed Ali, a volunteer with the charity, said it’s something he holds close to his heart, because he knows exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of the charity.
Ali was born with a rare disorder which meant frequent visits to the hospital as a child, but the Magic of Christmas made sure he didn’t miss out.
“The feeling was mesmerizing, like actually the first visit was in the hospital, as they did the hospital visits, there was no COVID,” Ali said. “It was amazing to wake up and have Santa and a bunch of elves.”
Ali is dedicated to paying it forward as one of the charity’s volunteers.
“It’s 10 times more powerful,” Ali said. “That feeling, that smile, these people are getting this.”
Families are referred to the charity by local agencies and this year the need is greater during the pandemic.
“Absolutely, there has been an increase in demand for families this year and we were expecting that. We were starting planning in the summer,” said volunteer Kelsey Murdoch.
In the past, Calgary Transit buses were magically transformed into reindeer buses full of donated gifts.
This year things will be different. Calgary Transit will still supply 22 buses with a cohort of volunteers on board, delivering gifts at the door.
But there will not be any in-home visits and for the first time, Murdoch will not fill her regular role, as chief elf on board the bus.
“I’m obviously really really disappointed. It’s an incredible experience and it has kind of become a tradition for me on Christmas Eve,” Murdoch said.
“We call it the Magic of Christmas because it’s magical and we make it work somehow.”
The shorter visits will allow the charity to reach at least 800 homes, around 100 more than last year.
“So this year, you know it’s it’s a much quicker touch, but we still want people to know that we care,” said Scott Perley, the president of the Magic of Christmas.
“There’s people out there that are, you know, just wanting to make their Christmas experience better.”
For Ali, while receiving was special, giving is just as magical.
“You see the people on the buses and the elves and Santa, but there’s a backbone to running it, so I’ll be here,” he said.
There are also 206 donation boxes at 132 locations around the city. Presents for babies and teenagers are always in demand.