November 6 was a special day for 100 of our community’s kids. For the first time anywhere in Canada, the Rotary Club of Edmonton West gave the gift of the holiday season to children in need of warm clothing. Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters partnered with four inner city Edmonton elementary schools to identify 25 kids from each school who could benefit from a shopping spree at Old Navy. We picked them up by bus at their school, and despite the early hour, lots of the kids beat us there!  On the bus ride to West Edmonton Mall, the kids were full of energy even though we’re quite sure they had no idea what to expect.

When they arrived, over 150 volunteers from Rotary Club of Edmonton West and South were there waiting to hand over a $200 gift card to Old Navy and become that child’s personal shopper for the day. The volunteers got to tell each young person that their $200 was actually $400 because Old Navy had discounted the entire store just for them. Together, the kids and the volunteers worked their way through the store, adding up their purchases to make sure they didn’t go over, and make sure they made the most of their shopping spree. The store was a frenzy of excitement.

Many of these kids don’t often have the opportunity to get new clothing, let alone pick them out for themselves!

“My favourite part,” says Kari Readman, Manager of Engagement, “was that the kids picked up on the selflessness of the Rotarians and wanted to pick out things for their parents or siblings. I really believe that they understood the magnitude of the generosity and how special they were to be included in the first Edmonton Santa Clothes event.”

One little girl told us that “this is the first time I’ve ever had matching mitts!” And similar words of awed gratitude trickled in from the kids all morning.

After the shopping was done, West Edmonton Mall opened three of its popular attractions for our young shoppers – the sea lions, the reptiles, and the cavern. There they got to enjoy the exhibits, have a special interactive session with Doug the Penguin, and then were treated to their very own Sea Lion Show which was simply incredible.  After the attractions everyone was hungry, so we went for lunch at the Fantasyland Hotel. The kids devoured some great food and experienced an inspirational talk from Rick Carrier, Senior Director of Player Development with the Edmonton Oilers, before going home.

“This event was absolutely incredible and something I have not witnessed in my 20 plus years with the agency,” says Kari. “The Rotary of Edmonton West and South, West Edmonton Mall, and Old Navy made an outstanding difference to the community today. We cannot thank them enough for making this event possible. We know it’s something these kids and their families will remember fondly for the rest of their lives.”

One little boy summed the day up perfectly when he said: “this is the best day of my life!”

You can view all the photos from the very special day here.

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