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‘Spirit of Christmas’ revival a success

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Despite a four-year hiatus, the “Spirit of Christmas” fundraising event was a success once again.

Organized this time by the La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary, Sunday afternoon’s event at La Place Rendez-Vous raised roughly $6,000 to purchase much-needed items for the hospital.

“I thought the attendance was wonderful,” enthused auxiliary member Monica Sus, who spearheaded the event.

“I didn’t think it was too crowded at any [one] time,” she noted.

“You always want more people but more people would have made it more crowded.”

She said they also had a fair number of people come towards the end of the afternoon after attending the St. Mary’s C.W.L. tea and bazaar.

“We had people who worked at that tea and who attended that tea, and they definitely bought items at our function,” Sus noted, adding she didn’t think there was a problem having those two events on the same day, which overlapped by only an hour.

She also said the committee also took great care in ensuring that things got underway right at the start, but that anyone who came later didn’t miss out.

For instance, of the first dozen items pulled, many items of the same kind were available later, as well.

“And having the other tea, some of the people were already dressed and out, and I don’t know if they would have came otherwise,” she reasoned.

The event featured a silent auction, with more than 130 items up for grabs, as well as refreshments, a bake table, a knitting table, and gently-used Christmas decor to purchase.

“I couldn’t ask for a better variety of items,” said Sus, gushing over the array of donations.

“We had Christmas items but we didn’t go too overboard with them,” she noted. “We had lots of gift certificates for food, restaurants—people loved that.

“I thought the variety was fantastic.”

The items included everything from a toolbox and sunglasses to a Barbie and mittens, in addition to cabbage rolls, jams, and jewellery.

“There was something for everyone,” Sus stressed. “People were generous.

“It was, all-in-all, a great event.”

Not having organized the event themselves before, Sus admitted they didn’t know how much money they might raise.

However, they knew whatever they made would be appreciated, as it is to go towards the purchase of a whirlpool tub for the second-floor in-patient unit, as well as a companion chair for the nursery and palliative care areas of the hospital.

And with the success of the event, Sus said she’s pretty sure at the auxiliary will host “Spirit of Christmas” again next year.

“All the organizers enjoyed the event and were positive from beginning to end,” she remarked.

And while admitting there are a few things she would do differently, Sus doesn’t think she would change the date.

“Yes, I know there are lots of things happening,” she said. “But if I go into the weekend before, it’s Remembrance Day and I don’t want to do that.”

“If you went the week after, you are into American Thanksgiving and that creates a problem because there are a fair amount of people who do use that as a holiday due to family members in the U.S.,” she added.

“Sometimes they go shopping for ‘Black Friday,’ so I’ve found with other groups that that [weekend] doesn’t work.”

Sus added the first weekend in December also has plenty of Christmas events going on, so it likely wouldn’t be any better.

“I’ve kind of looked at everything and I really can’t find a better date, so I probably wouldn’t change that,” she maintained.

Sus noted the committee also was thrilled with the reception the event got from the people who work in the hospital.

“A lot of the different areas donated, such as rehab, chemo, surgery, front desk administration—they all donated gift baskets,” she said.

“So I think it really brought everyone together on top of just being a nice event.”

Items also were donated by many other individuals and businesses in the community.

Sus hinted next year the auxiliary probably will add to the event, perhaps including a 50/50 draw and a raffle.

Even the bake sale they had was somewhat impromptu, with some baking being donated along with items.

“You just can’t do everything your first year,” she reasoned.

Sus also said emcee Johnathan Price did a great job, and she was pleased they were able to accept credit cards.

“It was something we worked together on and found a solution to a problem,” she noted, adding some options were going to cost too much.

“But from the experience we had [Sunday], we did the right thing.”

Sus also thanked the Rendez-Vous for donating the space, as well as the coffee/tea.

“And a thank you to all the people who donated, all the people who came out to help, and to everyone who purchased items,” she stressed.

“I would say it was very much a community event,” Sus added, chucking that Friday’s snowstorm was welcomed by her to help get everyone into the Christmas spirit.

Originally started here in 1995, the “Spirit of Christmas” ran as a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society and Fort Frances Community Chest until 2008.

It was revived in 2012 by the Rainy River District Breast Health Network, but only was held the one year to help fund that group’s pledge to the “Together We Can” campaign for the new digital mammography unit at La Verendrye Hospital.

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