BRACEBRIDGE - Santa’s helpers at a local high school have been working early, late and through their lunch breaks in a bid to give hundreds of local children a merry Christmas this year.
St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School student Nathan Lee is pushing hard to meet a looming deadline for toys that will be donated to the community and to the Salvation Army on Dec. 13. On that day, students from the school will be hosting a Santa's Workshop event, where children from the community will have a chance to meet Santa, and pick out handcrafted toys of their choice. (Photo by Louis Tam)
With just one week left in a looming deadline, shop students at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School have been tasked with completing about 1,600 handcrafted toys, and have been pulling extra hours to stay on schedule with the massive manifest. The toys are being prepared for a Santa’s Workshop event that the school will host on Dec. 13.
On that day, the school’s shop class will be transformed to look like Santa’s workshop, and children from local elementary schools will have a chance to pick out toys of their choice throughout the day in exchange for donations to the Manna Food Bank. Leftover toys will be donated to the Bracebridge Salvation Army for other deserving youngsters.
One of Santa’s hardworking helpers is Grade 10 student Nathan Lee, who was tasked with making 100 wooden toboggans. In a bid to fill his large quota on time, Lee has been working through his lunch breaks between classes, and has taken some of the toys home, where his mother has also been lending a helping hand.
“She’s helping a lot, she’s helping me paint some of them,” said Lee. “I have about 60 of these at my home right now.”
He said he took on the extra workload in an effort to take the weight off the shoulders of teacher Marty Scarlett, who is organizing the workshop.
“He’s been stressing a bit, so I wanted to make as many as I can for him,” said Lee.
Scarlett said completing the large number of toys has been stressful for students as well, but also noted they have displayed remarkable drive and determination in getting the job done. Each toy completed, he says, could mean the world for one deserving child in Bracebridge.
“That could be the only toy a kid gets,” he said.
On the day of Santa’s Workshop, visitors will be greeted by 30 students who will be dressed as elves, and will also have a chance to get a free photo taken with Santa himself. Beginning in the morning from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., about 800 elementary school students from 10 area feeder schools will be the workshop’s first guests. On top of receiving a toy, they will be participating in a number of hands-on activities, including making ornaments and cookies.
From 4 to 6 p.m. that evening, the workshop will be open to the general public. The workshop charges all a $1 fee or a non-perishable food item as a donation to the Manna Food Bank, and all visiting children must be accompanied by adults.
“Last time we did this, we raised 100 kilograms of food,” said Scarlett. “This is a perfect example of the learning that can occur outside of the classroom, and the untold lessons that can truly affect and refine an individual.”
The workshop is run in three-year intervals by the school, and is currently in its third incarnation. The event also is the 85th community-based project that Scarlett and students at the school have completed. Past projects include building a kayak that was donated to Variety Village in Toronto, and the construction of furniture for residents at the Pines Long Term Care Home.
This year, Scarlett and the students are also working to build a large, 24-by-36-foot greenhouse at the Pines. Once complete, it will allow students and seniors to work together in planting, growing and harvesting crops that will be split between the Pines, the high school and local food banks.