THUNDER BAY — For the past 14 years, Christmas has been a little bit brighter for thousands of children thanks to the Dilico Christmas Wish Campaign.
Now entering Year No. 15, the annual program provides empty red shopping bags, with gift suggestions personalized to individual youngsters, and asks the public to fill them with gifts and other essential items like clothing and toothpaste.
It’s made a huge difference, said Blythe Haynen, assistant director of communications at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care.
“A lot of children’s wishes come true, just because of the generosity in this community. Some kids that may not be looking for something under the Christmas tree are because Dilico Christmas Wish campaign exists and we have such a generous community that fills those bags with the most amazing gifts for kids,” Haynen said on Thursday, launching the 2023 campaign at Goods & Co Market.
It’s the personalization that makes the Christmas Wish campaign unique in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario, she added.
“Every single bag is designed for a child who has been profiled by our workers at Dilico. They’ve reached out to them, gotten sizes, what they’re looking for, for Christmas, so it’s all very special, on the tag,” Haynen said.
“You can sign out these Christmas Wish bags and Goods & Co., Starbucks, Bay Village Coffee, Waxed, our Dilico locations, or see us at some of our Christmas Wish booths around town.”
Haynen said in addition to the presents, they suggest participants put in extras, like a warm piece of clothing or socks or a sweater, a book and maybe a toy to go along with the wish.
“It takes a lot of work. Our workers have been busy connecting with the kids and asking them what their wishes are to make it special. I think it goes a long way when they get what they’ve asked for. It’s so special to see when a kid has asked for something, that they get that exact wish,” Haynen said.
“I know it means a lot to the kids to know somebody out in the community has thought of them and put in some thought and effort to go out and get them their wish.”
This year, to mark the 15th anniversary, a special ornament has been created by Nor’wester Designs, with the proceeds being used to help fill more Christmas Wish bags.
Dilico has also issued a special challenge to the business community, asking each participating business to commit to filling 15 bags or more. Westland Insurance was the first business to accept the challenge.
Christmas Wish bags must be returned by Dec. 4 in order to prepare them for delivery to children in Thunder Bay and several First Nations communities.