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Calgary high school students bringing Christmas cheer to families in need

Western Canada High School are celebrating the holiday season by donating nine decorated trees to the Brenda Strafford Society for the 6th annual Giving Tree initiative

Grade 10 students Mikaela Armstrong (left) and Sol Orellana put the final touches on their ‘Giving Tree’ at Western Canada High School during their lunch hour on Thursday.

Jennifer Friesen / metro Order this photo

Grade 10 students Mikaela Armstrong (left) and Sol Orellana put the final touches on their ‘Giving Tree’ at Western Canada High School during their lunch hour on Thursday.

Moments after the lunch bell rang on Thursday, Western Canada High School’s foyer was packed with students and spruces as teams raced to add last-minute touches to nine different Christmas trees.

For the past six years, the high school’s leadership committee has supported the Brenda Strafford Society Adopt-a-Family program by donating funds, gifts and decorated trees to women and children fleeing domestic violence.

“We’re working to connect the whole student body to the surrounding community,” said Grade 11 student Peyton Armstrong. “(The Brenda Strafford Society) is a part of our community and these families had to leave their homes. We just really want to make sure they have a good Christmas.”

Dubbed the “Giving Tree” initiative, the event brought in more than $4,000 worth of gifts and funding to the Brenda Strafford Society last year alone.

This year, some students added a little bit extra to their trees. A team called “The Tree Elves,” hung small bags of chocolate, nail polish, coloured pencils and mittens on the tree in addition to the traditional baubles.

Jillian Doyle was one of The Tree Elves, and said the idea came from the donated shoe boxes she used to make in elementary school.

“This is sort of our version of those shoe boxes,” she said. “We wanted to give them something a little more so the tree isn’t just a tree.”

Michelle Price heads the leadership program at the high school, and her eyes welled up as she watched her students walk around the trees on Thursday.

“It makes me really proud,” she said.

“To see all the kids come together, and it doesn’t matter what their background or their faith is, they know that they’re doing something special for people that need a little bit of joy and comfort in their lives. I just feel so proud of them.”

The trees will be delivered to the Brenda Strafford Society on Friday, and students from the leadership committee will go along to help set them up.

Armstrong joined in delivering the trees to families last year, and said seeing the look of excitement on the kids’ faces and hearing the mothers’ gratitude added so much to the experience.

“It’s a really good feeling because you get to add to their holidays in some way,” she said. “It makes you feel really grateful for what you have, and it’s just so nice to help out.”

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