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Tracy Cross Gauthier, the organizer of Secret Santa, found space at the airport – where she works – for this year’s collection of gifts to be distributed in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve. However, she is hoping to find a permanent, year-round space for the annual initiative for Christmas.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Secret Santa has wrapped up another successful effort of helping families in need enjoy Christmas.

“Things went really well,” said organizer Tracy Cross Gauthier, who was leading the annual initiative for the first time.

On Dec. 19, about 125 families received turkey dinner hampers.

Plus, Cross Gauthier noted that in excess of 650 toys and other gifts were distributed to youth under the age of 17 years.

The organizer said that was basically a normal year.

“I think it would be pretty close to it, perhaps a little bit more,” she said.

The deliveries were made in Hay River by the fire department and on the Hay River Reserve by the RCMP.

Cross Gauthier said she appreciated the help of the fire department, the RCMP and volunteers, along with the donations from individuals and businesses, including through donation boxes set up at several retail outlets.

“I’m very thrilled,” she said. “I had a tremendous amount of support.”

In particular, she noted that about 30 volunteers helped with two days of wrapping gifts.

Cross Gauthier assumed the role of organizer in October, after Michelle Schaub stepped aside after five years.

“It’s pretty close to what I thought it was going to be,” said Cross Gauthier. “I’ve supported Secret Santa in the past and I was given a lot of information from Michelle when I took over. So it was easy to get my head wrapped around the process.”

However, she noted that her initial concern when she took over as organizer involved space for the initiative, and that concern continues.

“Secret Santa needs its own space big enough to wrap, store and sort gifts, and we need this space for year round,” she said.

Cross Gauthier explained that, for example, a year-round space would allow Secret Santa to take advantage of sales at retailers.

Plus, a permanent space would allow wrapping to be spread out over the year.

“Having enough space that we can sort and see exactly what we have, how much we have by age, by gender, I think would go a long way in easing the process,” she said, noting that Secret Santa now has to start at the beginning of November to round up volunteers, find space, and buy and sort gifts.

“I’m going to be looking for a space for Secret Santa,” she said. “Absolutely. It’s a priority.”

This year, Secret Santa was based at the Hay River Airport, where Cross Gauthier works as the station co-ordinator for Canadian North.

The annual Christmas initiative has been operating in Hay River since the 1990s.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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