As students scan tables crowded with potential gifts for family and friends, the excitement of the annual Trinkets & Treasures sale at W.P. Bate Community School quickly becomes apparent a pair of eyes light up after spotting the perfect present.
The sale has been a holiday tradition at W.P. Bate for more than a dozen years. It provides students with the opportunity to purchase gently used, donated items — at prices ranging from 25 cents to $5 — that will be Christmas morning surprises for mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents.
"It's important for the kids because lots of them don't get to go and purchase a gift for any of their families," says Judy Klassen, the educational assistant who coordinates the sale each year. "It's a great opportunity to see the smiles on the kids' faces.
"They have a surprise. It could be a coffee mug, it could be a piece of jewelry, it could be a stuffed animal or slippers. We had a parent the other day helping us and she still has her gift, a coffee mug, that her son in Grade 6 bought her when he was in prekindergarten. It is exciting for the parents to see what they get."
Support from the school and wider community makes the sale a success. Klassen sorts, stores and prices the items for almost a year leading up to the big day. School staff and volunteers display the donated articles the night before. On the day of the sale, a group of volunteers ensure that every student finds what they need.
"For a lot of families at W.P. Bate there are many barriers around Christmas time and it can be a huge stress on families to make sure that their family can enjoy the kind of Christmas that many of us take for granted," said Vice-Principal Jamie Prokopchuk.
"It gives kids opportunities to come and shop for their siblings and their parents and provide something special for Christmas morning. If students don't come with money, they are given tokens so they can still purchase something and take something home."
Beginning with the prekindergarten students, each class gets a turn to visit the sale in the school's community room. A lot of thought goes in to the selection of each gift. Stuffed animals for younger brothers and sisters or a piece of jewelry for mom were among the popular items on the students' shopping lists. And for those who may not celebrate Christmas, the sale is an opportunity to find something for someone who is special in that student's life.
While finding the perfect present is an important part of the sale, Prokopchuk said it's about more than just buying a gift. Teachers speak about the importance of gratitude and the spirit of giving to others and students have to use their decision-making, budgeting, and planning skills as part of the process. The opportunity to select and purchase something for others provides students with a sense of accomplishment and independence.
"It's about lots of conversation they have with their peers and with their teachers," she said. "They are sent with maybe $5 to spend so they have to budget their money, depending on how big or small their families are, and make sure that they find the right items."
The contributions of the volunteers — retired teachers, staff, friends, and neighbours — ensures all of the students' gifts are wrapped so the recipient will be surprised on Christmas morning.
"I think what is really special about this event is the volunteers who come so that every gift is wrapped and prepared so that the families don't know what is inside the boxes or the bags," Prokopchuk said. "Miss Judy, our EA, gets all of the kids in the school to decorate brown paper bags so that the kids have something to wrap their presents in."
"It's a whole community that comes together, puts this event on and makes it successful."