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Christmas in July hopes to bring joy to Bow Valley seniors still isolated due to COVID-19

Organizers of the annual Bow Valley Elves campaign are hoping to share some Christmas in July cheer with local seniors. Deadline to signup and provide a gift is Thursday (July 24).
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Bow Valley Elves organizer and Rusticana Grocery owner Christine de Soto stands next to a giving tree. The tags on the tree can be taken by residents who wish to purchase a gift for a local senior this Christmas. RMO FILE PHOTO

BOW VALLEY – It may the middle of summer, but that isn't stopping some local elves from spreading Christmas cheer to local seniors.

The Bow Valley Elves program that runs each December by matching community members with local seniors to provide them with a gift during the holidays.

Organizer Christine de Soto said with everything going on related to COVID-19 and how it is disproportionately affected seniors in the community, the idea was pitched to have Christmas in July. 

"It is a way of saying we are thinking of you," de Soto said. "We know you are locked up, we do care and we are still here, and we appreciate you have had to stay at home all this time."

The campaign matches gift givers from the community with a senior. In December, trees with gift tags that contain the information about a local senior – including gift ideas – are located throughout the valley including at de Soto's business Rusticana Grocery and local high schools. 

Connecting high school students with seniors is one of the most important aspects of the campaign each year for de Soto. It is a popular endeavour, with more elves wishing to gift gifts than there are seniors to receive them each year. 

"I know it may be cliche, but we have an amazing community and you come up with a cool idea and everybody jumps on board," she said. "Every year [the high school students] blow me away and I think teenagers can often get a bad wrap, but I haven't seen it." 

Registration for Christmas in July, however, is online through Signup Genius. The deadline to register and drop off a gift at FCSS or Rusticana is Friday (July 24). 

She said the credit for the summer-edition of the Bow Valley Elves campaign goes to Mavis Sautner, a program coordinator with Family and Community Support Services.

Sautner put together a list that included seniors at the Bow River Lodge in Canmore, Cascade and Edith House in Banff, Origin at Spring Creek, long term care at the local hospitals and seniors living in local communities. Most were able to make a specific gift request, but FCSS has also put together a list of gift ideas that work well. 

The only difference with the Christmas in July campaign, however, is that organizers were unable to reach out to seniors in the Stoney Nakoda First Nation to include them in the summer version. 

The Christmas in July campaign builds on the success Bow Valley Elves has seen over the past several years in the community.

"It has been fantastic, the response we have received over the years and in particular the high school students ... that to me has been the true success," de Soto said. "For me, it has just been so amazing and a joy to see where it has gotten to." 



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Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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