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Secret Santas share spirit of the season
Donors give $25,910 to ensure kids have merry Christmas

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They say Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, but the Jolly Old Elf has plenty of helpers in Iqaluit, where thanks to some generous souls more than 340 children will be having a very merry Christmas this year.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Angel Tree was Iqaluit NorthMart grocery manager Dave Seamone's idea, and he has been running the annual kids' Christmas gift program since running a grocery store in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Thanks to donors, more than 340 children will get "something to play with, something to wear and something to eat" this Christmas, he said. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

Individuals and organizations have come together to fulfil NorthMart grocery manager Dave Seamone's Christmas wish to give each of the children on a Department of Education list "something to play with, something to wear and something to eat" through the Angel Tree program.

The driving force behind the fulfilment of this promise is Clarence Synard, construction manager for NCC Development. Up until this year, Synard and his boss, NCC president Greg Cayen, have raised $17,000 in total since starting to raise funds for Angel Tree in 2008 but 2011 has been a special year.

"Our final tally this year is $25,910 this year alone," Synard said. "It is quite a jump. More people are hearing about it and want to be part of it. Everyone's jumping in, asking, 'How can I help?'"

The donors include everyone from construction workers to journeymen, and people from various businesses and organizations he approached.

"What I like about it is people are very quiet about it. They say, 'I don't need to be recognized for this amount, I just want to put it in.'"

That sense of anonymity is the reason for the success of the program, Seamone said. People pick an angel off the tree at the Iqaluit store and choose a toy for the recipient on the angel identified by gender and age only pay for the toy and drop it with angel attached into the box at the front of the store. It's a program Seamone started in 1992 while running a grocery store in Shelburne, N.S., and it has been a great success since he moved here in 2000.

"People are very generous here in Iqaluit," he said, noting last year a child aged seven or eight raised between $200 and $300 for the program. "She came down here with a teacher to buy gifts. She said she was committing herself to buy gifts for needy children at Christmas time."

However, the program is more than just giving toys. With the unprecedented amount of cash this year, Seamone and his crew from the Department of Education can also throw in gifts of clothing and food. Cayen would like to see the idea spread through Nunavut.

"I'd like to see the Northern stores take the lead and expand it," he said. "We made that challenge last year and hopefully it will take off."

Synard agrees, saying NCC could distribute the funds to other stores if they took part.

"I want to make sure every kid has a gift at Christmas time," he said. "We'd love to see this expand everywhere. It's not just here that there are less fortunate kids. It's throughout the entire territory."

For Seamone, who spends six weeks of each year ensuring the program's success, "the benefit is seeing the smile on kids' faces."

That's what keeps Synard going, too.

"I'm probably the biggest kid you'd ever meet at Christmas time," he said. "Christmas is a big part of my family, and me and my family are doing good. Times could change; next year my kids could be looking for a gift from under the Angel Tree, so I hope someone would be there to give it to them."

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