Organizers say delivering the gifts is a key aspect, as it provides kids the chance to know how it feels to give back. Some 62 seniors received a special “secret santa” gift this year.

By Laura Keil

It’s a Saturday morning at Ellen Duncan’s home on 7th avenue in Valemount and every table, couch and counter is covered in festive gift bags. At the dining room table, she and husband Todd are addressing and sorting the gifts that have arrived in a flurry over the last few days. The gifts were purchased by anonymous “elves” for 62 local seniors, many of whom won’t be able to be with family over the holidays.

Marian Plummer, one of the organizers, said for the seniors, it is a rare treat to have a gift delivered by children to their door. The visit from children alone is a delight, and the gifts are a bonus.

“Lots of them say it’s been so long since they’ve been able to have wishes for what they want for Christmas that they have a hard time deciding.”

She said the first year of Adopt-a-senior it was hard to convince many of the seniors to take part; once they heard how much it would mean to the children delivering the gifts, they opted in.

Duncan said sometimes the kids will visit for a few minutes with the senior, which is also a great highlight for some of the seniors.

“It’s not always that they need the gift,” Duncan said. “It’s about the attention and the light and love.”

On the Duncan’s back porch, the Bernicky family loads boxes of gifts into the back of their vehicle. For Shay and Ryan Bernicky and their kids, it’s about sharing the Christmas joy with those who may not have much family around the holidays.” 

Kylie Bernicky isn’t intimidated by the size of this gift box.

“(It’s also) to show our kids that it’s small acts of kindness in life that can go a long way,” Shay said. “A simple smile and Merry Christmas from the kids to these seniors brings pure joy to them ” you can see it in their eyes.”

The initiative started during COVID-19 in 2021 with a gap last year. Originally organizers phoned seniors directly to see if they wanted to participate or people nominated a senior. This year, they went off the old list as they didn’t have time to refresh it. But they realized that in those two years, 15 seniors on the list had passed away. Three more are currently in  hospital.

“It brings it closer to home that (we should) take time for them because we don’t have them forever,” Duncan said.

Plummer said it brings joy to the adoptees and to the children and to the parents who are participating.

“Like one child said the first year, it’s better to give than to receive,” she said.

Duncan agrees. “I think everyone feels like they’re contributing to community.”

Some of the delivery crew.