Members of the Quesnel PeeWee Thunder hockey team with some of the gift bags they donated to the Secret Santa for Seniors program, along with initiative organizers Victoria Rempel and Judy Lefebvre at Chemo RV Sales and Svc Ltd. on Saturday, Dec. 14. (Sasha Sefter - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Quesnel Peewee Thunder the first stars in Secret Santa for Seniors program

The hockey team went above and beyond to help seniors at G.R. Baker Hospital have a Merry Christmas

The Quesnel PeeWee Thunder hockey team took part in Secret Santa for Seniors, a fundraising program organized by Quesnel resident Victoria Rempel and her mother, Judy Lefebvre.

The program started last year when Lefebvre, who works at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital, her daughter and her coworkers gathered donations from the nurses in the hospital’s convalescent care unit (CCU) in order to provide gifts for the seniors who live on the premises who may or may not have otherwise received anything.

This year, Rempel decided to post the initiative on social media to see if anyone in her friend circle would be interested in helping out. The response from her friends and the community in Quesnel caught her by surprise.

“I posted it on Facebook just expecting that my close friends would be like ‘yeah, sure we’ll help out, no problem!’ and it ended up getting shared just over 150 times and completely blew up,” said Rempel.

One of the groups in the community who responded to Rempel’s call for help was the Quesnel PeeWee Thunder hockey team, who ended up donating more gifts than any other group.

The desire to give back to their community was very important to Thunder head coach Mike Riley.

“We as an organization ask a lot of our community to be able to run our tournaments. We have Provincials at home this year, so sponsorships are a big deal for us and the community is always giving to us, so I really wanted the kids to give back to the community in some way,” said Riley. “When we heard about this program for seniors who were in the hospital, who maybe won’t receive gifts and are all alone for the holidays, it was a really good opportunity for our kids to do something to give back.”

The players on the team were also tasked with earning their own money to pay for the gifts as a way to really understand the meaning of the gesture.

“We asked that our kids earn their own money to fill the gift bags and not just have mom or dad go buy something but to go out and shovel driveways, help neighbours out with chores or something along those lines to earn the money so it would really bring home a sense of giving to put together these gift bags,” said Riley. “It really is important for the kids to learn to give back to the community.”

Thunder players Blake Riley and Tristen Mero felt it was important to take part in the program.

“Our community supports us a lot, so it’s good to give back to the people who support us,” said Riley.

“It felt really good to give back, especially to see how much we all were able to give,” added Mero.

The Secret Santa for Seniors initiative was so popular this year that Rempel was able to expand the program from the original 10 seniors in the CCU to include individuals in the entire hospital who may be in need of a Merry Christmas.

Rempel believes the incredible response from the community will be greatly appreciated by the individuals living at G.R. Baker Memorial, and it shows the strength and warmth of the people of Quesnel.

“It really brings the whole sense of Christmas to the community,” she said. “The seniors are super thankful. Some have families, some don’t, so for everybody to just be able to get a little something, it doesn’t have to be big, but that little something just totally brightens their day. People have been approaching me saying ‘my kid heard about this and wants to take part’ or they say they heard about it on the radio and want to know how their families can help too, so it’s not just bringing happiness to a single senior in the hospital, but bringing families together as well.

Rempel says Secret Santa for Seniors will return next year but with a name change to better represent all of those who will benefit from the initiative thanks to the generosity of the community.

READ MORE: Quesnel Thunder roll through Williams Lake Peewee tourney

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