From heart to heart, gift calendar makes it local!

A few years ago my friends David and Elizabeth Morley wrote a series of books with meaningful exercises for Canadian classroms. Their book about the ‘giving’ season was called Under the Tree. In it they challenged children to learn the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ without becoming Grinch-like in their attitude.

The song that went with the book was called “One Gift will do” and really challenged children to think about what they could share with others and what one gift mattered most.

Can we, as adults, remember more than one gift at Christmas? Can we remember the year we received the Cabbage Patch Doll or the Fly Casting Rod or our first Bike?

Last week I wrote about our family’s decision this year to bless each other with gifts of charity to others. At dinner this week, my first husband and Kid Two were mulling over their charitable gifts. I’ve already decided to support an African woman in her own business.

“Well,” said first husband, “if my gift is honouring my brother, it should have something to do with sports. But, what?”

“And I have my cousin, Megan,” said Kid Two. “She’s a teacher. Mine should have something to do with education.”

I remembered receiving a Catalogue of Hope with the paper last week. It’s a beautiful, small calendar for 2009 but each photo for each month is accompanied by gift suggestions for children who are supported by Children’s Aid in Simcoe County.

I turned to April. Look, you could buy a week of day camp for a child for $150, I gestured, opening the calendar/catalogue. Or a bike. Or a helmet. I turned to August and the cheery face of Matt who’s thankful for skates ($75). And there, in September are school supplies for $25 or back to school clothes for $100.

This caused a call to Jon Aston, president of the CAS Foundation Board of Directors. Jon said this is the third year of the calendar, its first in a small format, printed generously by locally owned Kempenfelt Graphics.

Jon said the calendar goes out across the region and the Foundation’s hope is that its children in care will receive some of the things not covered by the government’s basic stipend for food and shelter. For a CAS child with incredible music ability, there is no money for music lessons. For a keen skater, there is no hockey or figure skating. For a youngster interested in art, the basic budget doesn’t cover art camp.

And so, graphic designers, photographers, a team of people put their creative energy behind this project and the whole thing just ‘clicked’, says Jon.

And do the items purchased reach the CAS child who needs them?

“For sure, they do,” says Jon. “The child who wants to play hockey or take figure skating gets the skates for sure.”

While the CAS Foundation certainly focusses the first of the calendar on Christmas, its needs are year long and the calendar helps them focus people’s attention on the needs of CAS children every day of the year. There is just no money for extras, such as college tuition. That’s for the moonth of June.

“This 12 month presence in people’s homes is our way of reminding people they could give a gift to a CAS child throughout the year, not just at Christmas.”

The CAS Foundation supports 12,000 young people in Simcoe County. The Foundation funds programs in three major areas…. Enrichment (summer camp, playing hockey, getting a bicycle), Education (the key to breaking the ‘have not’ cycle often is centred in education), Prevention (school based programs with direct help in the schools).

None of these services is funded by government. It’s all funded by donors who, flipping through a calendar, become acquainted with a need and set out to make it happen.

“These are kids who have had experiences that no child should have. I feel they need to reclaim their childhood and reach their full potential. They should go to camp and be a kid. They should be able to take piano lessons or join a hockey team. They should be with other kids and not singled out and labelled ‘different.’

Great concept.

Great gift. Jon Aston, 705 790-9437 (

Thanks, Jon.