Feature Story                                                                                       Sunday, December 23, 2012


At the Heart of Christmas

Carolers spread holiday cheer to infirm at CGH

Staff/Voice photos


Mayor Sharon Gaetz (second from right) and friends help lift CGH patient's spirits last week at Chilliwack General Hospital.


hristmas is a time when spontaneous acts of human kindness happen more frequently, often surfacing in unexpected places. Community caring and good deeds don't always have to come in the form of a colossal town event.


The true spirit and meaning of Christmas usually comes from altruistic individuals who know their gesture of goodwill can leave an indelible mark on someone's life.


Singing Christmas carols to patients at a hospital is a small act of felicity that can help to alleviate feelings of homesickness and loneliness.


Last Wednesday, a cheerful cluster of people, led by Mayor Sharon Gaetz and her husband Jim, strolled through Chilliwack General Hospital singing seasonal favourites and spreading holiday cheer.


This wasn’t a bunch of ragtag semi-inebriated people standing outside your door chanting Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.


Nor were these radiant individuals looking for applause or fame. They just wanted to help lift patient's spirits though song and mirth, and let them know they were being thought of at Christmas.


“For some people, this is their very last Christmas, and that’s why I want to do this,” said Gaetz, “It’s really touching when you think of the families.”


Doctors and nurses laughed and waved, some even sang along with the carolers as they made their way from floor to floor, and ward to ward.


Some of the patients at the hospital were overwhelmed by emotion at the display of humanitarianism and level of compassion showed by the carolers. Others made song requests of old favourites, then smiled and nodded as the music took them back through their memories to perhaps a happier and healthier time in their lives.


The band of merry minstrels consisted of Kevin Biegel, Sardis Secondary School music teacher, Dave Snider, manager of the City of Chilliwack Parks, Recreation & Culture on guitars, and Cal Siemens, General Manager Pricesmart Foods with some of his store staff and other compassionate individuals from the community.


Siemens, who a capella's very well, brought a generous supply of about 150 goodie bags loaded with fruit and candy donated from his store.


“I love it. This is the third year that we’ve been involved with this and Mayor Gaetz,” he said.


Siemens says their location was recently named as one of the best food stores in the country by the Canadian Grocer Community Awards committee.


“We’re very proud to be recognized amongst the top ten,” he told The Voice.


Siemens says any decision on which local charities to help is made in Chilliwack at store level.


“Primarily, at our store, is a team that works well together in those decisions and they are very focused here in Chilliwack in doing that, so it's good to be a part of it,” he said. “I may be the store manager, but certainly the team leads the community support initiative.”


Siemens says each year Pricesmart staff holds fundraisers, and this year managed to collect $25,000 in donations for the Children’s Hospital.


When asked how his staff raises that much money, he says they focus on community participation, and constantly look for opportunities to help raise money for charity.


“One way we do that is with golf tournaments, and we have hot dog sales. There are so many events throughout the year that we get involved in.”


“It's very rewarding and it's great to see the looks on their faces, plus we have a lot of fun doing it too."


The Gaetz’s brought trays of delicious sandwiches and pastries which the crew sat down with afterward in the Zest Café lounge situated in the hospital lobby.


See more photos below.



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Thanks for looking. Merry Christmas.