Two great reasons to attend the Great West Life Spirit of Christmas

In its first year, nearly 4,500 visitors took in the seasonal sights and sounds of the Great West Life Spirit of Christmas on Trinity Western University's campus. In its second year, the numbers more than doubled, and this year the campus should see more visitors than ever. With the number of attendees steadily increasing, event organizers have added a second charity, Canuck Place Children's Hospice, to the Great West Life Spirit of Christmas charity lineup.

The Great West Life Spirit of Christmas has always been about supporting community and family, making Canuck Place, with its family focus, an ideal charity to sponsor. Canuck Place opened in 1995 and is a world leader in providing palliative health-care for children and their families in their time of need. The programs offered include end-of-life care, pain and symptom management, respite care, school, music, and play therapy, recreation opportunities and counseling for the entire family. Canuck Place provides its services at no cost to the families in need, relying entirely on the generous support of individuals, corporations and organizations.

Commenting on the addition of Canuck Place as a Spirit of Christmas charity, event producer Mike Wipf says, "it's a perfect fit. The Great West Life Spirit of Christmas focuses on community, it focuses on family, and we're a family community celebration with a goal to be the number one destination in the Fraser Valley during the Christmas season for families to come and partake in our activities," he says.

In fact, something that not a lot of people know is that the majority of families supported by Canuck Place live in the Fraser Valley. "A lot of the families cannot afford to live within the Vancouver city limits, so many of them live in places like Langley, Abbotsford, or Chilliwack and have to actually drive out to Canuck Place," explains Wipf.

Chief Executive Officer Filomena Nalewajek with Canuck Place says, "We are a provincial program located in Vancouver's Shaughnessy yet we serve the entire province. We want to reach out, tell and have the opportunity to connect Canuck place with local communities in the Fraser Valley." She goes on to say that there are currently about 350 children and families registered with Canuck Place and that they typically book a year in advance for respite care. "We (Canuck Place) provide care, love and support to families when they are walking the most difficult journeys of their lives," says Nalewajek.

The Great West Life Spirit of Christmas will sponsor Canuck Place by donating all proceeds from the Christmas tree decorating contest and craft fair table rentals to the charity. A silent auction located outside the Trinity Western campus bookstore with Vancouver Canucks paraphernalia will also raise funds to benefit the Canuck Place Children's Hospice.

For the past two years, the Salvation Army Red Kettle Appeal has been the main charity working with the Spirit of Christmas, a great fit considering the organization's community emphasis, and organizers are thrilled to support the Salvation Army for a third Christmas season.Salvation Army volunteers, with their signature red kettles, will be on campus throughout the event,, accepting cash donations to benefit community members in need during the holiday season.

The decision to sponsor a second charity through the Spirit of Christmas came naturally as the event grew. "We thought that if we doubled in size than we could double in our giving," Wipf says. "This year, with adding another charity, we're really trying to get the message across that this is a priority to us, even more so than the last two years. Hopefully this year when people come, they'll be more aware that this event is about welcoming our neighbors in the community, but also to support some great causes in the spirit of giving," says Wipf.

Organizers are hopeful that the addition of a second charity will encourage people to come to the event with the true "spirit" of Christmas in mind. "That's really why this is a free event," says Wipf, crediting title sponsor Great West Life for envisioning a free event that encourages giving to others and creating "good Christmas memories for kids and families and neighbors."

And, as Wipf explains, both of the charities on board this year are complimentary to the family and community focus of the Great West Life Spirit of Christmas. "Salvation Army focuses on the community and Canuck Place focuses on families and in return builds stronger communities because of that. Family and community are what the Spirit of Christmas is all about and who we want to impact this Christmas season," he says.

For more information on Canuck Place Children's Hospice visit, on the Salvation Army visit, and on the Great West Life Spirit of Christmas visit

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 41undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 17 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.


Last Updated: 2008-11-25
Author: Laura Ralph