Dyan James’ face lit up as she pushed back the purple tissue paper revealing the gifts she received from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Gifts of Light campaign.
She pulled out a scarf, hat, gloves as well as some toiletries like shampoo and deodorant.
“It is awesome, nice stuff, good quality stuff,” James said.
James, who lives in Scarborough, is a client at CAMH’s Archway Outpatient Clinic on Queen Street West in Parkdale. Archway provides a coordinated and comprehensive treatment program for people who have chronic schizophrenia or related disorders and are living in the community.
The clinic held its annual holiday party on Dec. 7. For James and some of her fellow clients at Archway this was the only holiday celebration they will have this year, but James said it’s a wonderful celebration all the same.
“I’m part of the Archway family and it’s a loving family,” said James, who has been going to Archway since 2007.
Held in the gymnasium of the Masaryk Cowan Community Centre, tables dressed with green and red cloths and seasonal songs on the radio, the party featured a holiday meal with lasagna, quiche, cooked vegetables and turkey, raffle prizes and was capped off with Santa and his helpers distributing CAMH Gifts of Light to the 110 clients in attendance.
There will be 1,700 Gifts of Light distributed to CAMH clients over the holiday season. Now in its fifth year, the Gifts of Light campaign encourages people to purchase gifts that will help bring hope and comfort to CAMH patients during Christmas.
Steve Milanis, who also lives in Scarborough, dressed in a Santa Claus suit to help hand out gifts to his fellow Archway clients.
“It makes my day happy,” he said. “It makes me happy to (hand) the gifts to the clients. I like giving presents to other people.
“Sometimes it is a hard time of year for people,” Milanis said. “It is good to open your heart for the people at Archway.”
Aiding him in handing out the gifts was Zaib Shaikh from the television show Little Mosque on the Prairie and the movie Midnight’s Children. The actor also played the role of the event’s celebrity emcee.
Shaikh said he was welcomed into the party by the staff and clients of Archway as though he had known them for years.
“It’s nice, if people don’t have a chance to be with their family or their own loved ones, that they get to share it with their community and friends because at the end of the day family can sometimes be who you choose,” Shaikh said.
Shaikh said his parents left their home in Pakistan to come to Canada and make a better life for him.
“It is important to me to pass that tradition and hope along,” he said. “This is what we are all here for as Canadians, to make sure every Canadian feels connected whether they are family, friends or meeting for the first time.”
The meal served was made possible by a mother of one of the clients. She wanted the Archway clients and staff to have a great party and anonymously donated the money needed for the catering.
Also on hand to help with the event were staff from Price Waterhouse Coopers and Donna Slaight, CAMH Foundation Chair of the Gifts of Light committee.