Originally published in the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday, December 17, 2014. Written by Cam Tait.

Adopt a teen 1

David Dickinson, executive director of Community and Family Services for the Salvation Army in Alberta and the NWT, admires a plastic train donated as part of the Adopt-a-Teen program.

By the very nature of its name — Adopt-A-Teen — is a campaign to make sure teenagers have something to open Christmas morning.

There’s a ripple effect, however, that sheds hope and happiness for the entire family. Especially parents.

I speak from my own experience from a young boy growing up in the west-end community of Lynnwood. Christmas morning was controlled chaos as my siblings and I ripped open gifts.

Our parents sat back on the couch against the far wall, cradling their coffee cups.

They watched with great expectation when we open their gifts. There were times, more than once, when mom and dad appear to be more excited than I was.

The gift of giving is so precious when you’re a parent.

I have gone through it many times since as a parent and, now, a grandparent. When my wife and I rise on Christmas morning, we can’t wait until our son and his family come over and open their presents.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have any gifts to give them.

But since joining the Edmonton Sun news staff I think I am gaining and understanding — more importantly, an appreciation — of what it must feel like.

Because here at the Sun, Adopt-A-Teen is very important to us.

This year’s goal is to raise some $430,000 which will turn into $50 Walmart gift cards to young people aged 13 to 17, who otherwise wouldn’t have anything to open Christmas morning.

For parents seeing their child go without is an agonizing experience. Christmas magnifies it even more.

Viki Panos is a youth in care program facilitator with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

She remembers working with a single mother who had six kids. The younger kids had something to open Christmas morning from the Christmas Bureau.

There was nothing for her teenagers.

“The mom was heartbroken and felt so incredibly guilty she could not provide anything special for them for Christmas. We collected bottles for recycling and gave her the money so she could buy for her older kids,” says Viki.

“When someone demonstrates that they think a teen is important, it means everything to them and to their parents.”

The community program supervisor for Big Brothers and Big Sister is Mallory McMurtrie, who saw a family lose their home last Christmas.

There wasn’t any money for Christmas gifts, never mind having the difficulty of having to choose food or electricity.

“On learning that there were organizations in the city that would help give her kids Christmas, she almost didn’t believe us. Just a small amount of support and you could almost see the weight being lifted off her shoulders,” says Mallory.

“I think we sometimes take for granted what we have but when you see how little it takes to change a person’s outlook, to change their feeling about themselves and the world around them, it sure makes you see things in a new light.”

Contribute on line at adoptateenedmonton.ca. Call the Sun toll-free at 1-888-786-7821 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Cheques? Certainly. And they can be made out to Adopt-A-Teen and sent to Adopt-A-Teen, c/o Edmonton Sun, Suite #350, 4990 92 Ave., Edmonton, AB, T6B 3A1.

(Cam Tait is the special projects advisor for Challenge Insurance.)

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