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Santa Claus is coming

Officials at Dilico Children’s Foundation are asking Northwestern Ontarians to play Santa Claus for hundreds of Aboriginal youngsters in need.
(Leith Dunick,

Officials at Dilico Children’s Foundation are asking Northwestern Ontarians to play Santa Claus for hundreds of Aboriginal youngsters in need.

On Thursday the organization, which provides full-time care for 575 displaced children, and services to as many as 6,000, launched its annual Christmas Wish campaign, hoping to fill hundreds of boxes with toys and other essentials to hand out on Dec. 25.

Melanie Albanese, the foundation chairwoman, said children are the future of the region and with the Christmas season in full swing, it’s a great time to reach out to children in care and show them compassion.

“It’s for the children. If we all keep the spirit of Christmas within us, it all starts with that twinkle in a child’s eyes. And when you don’t see that twinkle in a child’s eye, I think it’s just sad. So we should just reach out to all our children,” Albanese said.

“Our Aboriginal and First Nation communities are experiencing a baby boom and we need to be there to support them and to assist them with those little extras in live they deserve and should have.”

According to the Assembly of First Nations, the Aboriginal population is growing at twice the rate of the rest of Canada, and it’s estimated that by decade’s end, half the First Nations population will be younger than age 25.

While they’ve already collected 300 boxes, filled with everything from Barbie dolls and gloves to Spiderman toys and school supplies, the need continues to grow.

“You can choose the age of a child, from 0 to 17, and you can fill them up with toys and essentials,” Albanese said.

“As well, there are children who have transitioned out of care. They may be in university, between the age of 18 and 21, and you can (buy) gift certificates for them and give them to them as well,” she said.

This is the first year for the boxes, she added, though the foundation did take part in last year’s hamper program.

“Our goal was 300. We’ve surpassed that, but we have 575 children in care, and we’re hoping that each child will have at least a box on Christms. But the need is great. We have so many more that we could take on. So by no means are we satisfied,” Albanese said.

Don Auger, executive director at Dilico Anishnabek Family Care said the Christmas program will make a difference in children’s lives.

“Dilico, in looking after these children, we are technically the parents of these children, the guardians of these children.

“So we want to make sure that every child that we have receives one of these gift boxes.”

In addition to Thunder Bay Insurance, where Albanese works, pick-up and drop-off locations include Dilico’s main office, any TD branch location in Thunder Bay, the Mary J. L. Black Library and the Brodie Resource Library

The campaign runs through Dec. 7.


Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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