The Calgary Firefighters Toy Association was able to host an event for kids on Sunday after their annual party was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.
This year volunteers were determined to not let that happen again. Since COVID-19 public health measures meant they couldn’t host the type of party that used to be at the Stampede Corral, they held a drive-through event near a northeast Calgary fire station instead.
“It has gone amazingly smooth. The team of volunteers that we have working for us today is amazing,” said Mark Hagel, president of the Calgary Firefighters Toy Association, of the Dec. 19 event. “They put this show together and you can just see how happy the kids are.”
Families were invited to the party based on suggestions from social agencies and Calgary school boards.
Around 3,000 kids received gifts this year, which is lower than normal. The number had to be reduced despite a great demand because of the drive-through format.
“I think it’s extremely important because some of these kids, unfortunately, this is it for their Christmas. So we try to fill that hole for them. This party has always been kind of an economic barometer of the city and this is just another one of those years where we have a really great demand. Because we had to limit how many cars we can get through in a given day, we had to limit our numbers,” Hagel said.
For families taking part, the event added some much-needed cheer at an uncertain time.
“This is a pretty amazing opportunity. Something that we would otherwise not be able to do for my daughter this year as I’m not working,” said Calgary mom Nicole Giroux.
For Carmen Grobbelaar who moved to Calgary from South Africa a year ago, the event was memorable for her children.
“This was great. I think they’ve done such a great job under the COVID circumstances. It’s so much fun. I’m very happy,” Grobbelaar said.
Hagel said firefighters are already looking forward to putting on next year’s party when it’s expected to be held at the TELUS Convention Centre for the first time.
The celebration includes Calgary firefighters, including retirees, who volunteer their time to organize the party and to gather the donated gifts.