If Santa’s looking for a few extra elves this holiday season, he need not look any further than Princess Margaret Junior School in Etobicoke.
The school’s 300-odd students not only assembled more than 250 gift-wrapped shoeboxes full of small toys and gifts destined for less fortunate children in developing countries, but they also packed them, assembly-line style, into awaiting delivery trucks in a record 45 minutes this week.
One by one, each of the 261 brightly wrapped shoeboxes assembled were passed from hand to hand, student to student on Wednesday morning, winding their way from one end of Princess Margaret Junior School to the other and out the back doors to be loaded and delivered to a warehouse in Mississauga. From there, the Canadian Food for Children charity will ship them out to children in need in Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala or Ghana – giving underprivileged kids the chance at a happy holiday.
For 10-year-old Alisha Kapasi, who was single-handedly responsible for bringing in 21 of those 261 shoeboxes, the whole shoebox drive experience was a rewarding one.
“It’s sad to know that there are people in Third World countries, and you know that they are less fortunate. I want them to be as fortunate as I am, and when you think about it, we are really fortunate. We’ve got a great school, we’ve got great families, we have lots of attention, so it’s nice,” she said, noting that she packed her boxes full of mini shampoos and conditioners she collected from local hotels, and a lot of little gifts purchased with money and gift cards donated to her by family members and local businesses.
“I hope on Christmas morning they’ll feel happy and excited to use all these different pencils and things I packed for them, and I hope they feel good inside. It’s nice knowing that they’ll have a nice Christmas.”
This year marks the first year Princess Margaret students have participated in the Dr. Simone’s Canadian Food for Children Shoebox Drive.
Over the course of two weeks last month, the students and their families were encouraged to assemble shoeboxes full of new and gently used goodies including soaps, crayons and markers, pencils and pens, pads of paper, socks, small toys, hair accessories (clips, headbands, scrunchies), tooth brushes, small stuffed animals, and costume jewelry.
For the school’s kindergarten to Grade 5 students, the drive has proven an exercise in giving back, said Princess Margaret Principal Anna Viegandt.
“The whole idea behind the shoebox drive comes down from the thought of giving – and giving to those underprivileged and less fortunate than we are, because, in the end, we have so much more than others. I think the kids are starting to realize that now, and what we’ve done is amazing,” she said, noting that many of the shoebox gifts will go to shanty towns in the poorest of poor neighbourhoods. “I’m totally proud of my students. They did a wonderful job.”
Inside the Di Matteo sisters’ combined 14 boxes are a wide variety of gifts for a wide variety of recipients – in one box for a young boy, they put in some games; in another for a 16-year-old girl, they packed some makeup; and in yet another box for a little girl, they packed some of their favourite dress-up items.
For seven-year-old Tessa, being able to pass along some of her favourite things to another little girl in need is what makes the shoebox drive all the more special.
“It makes me feel happy because then they get stuff that we don’t use that much,” she said. “My mom said that was the best present; that it makes her feel happy, too, that we’re giving to others stuff we don’t use and that we’re not throwing it away and other people are going to get to use it.”
And for Tessa’s older sister Alexa, 9, the shoebox drive taught her that not all kids around the world are as fortunate as she is.
“We’re delivering boxes to the children in Third World countries so they can have a Christmas present, because sometimes their parents can’t buy one,” she said. “We’re helping somebody in the world who doesn’t have gifts from their parents.”