Every year, the school gathers to provide local families with boxes—or bundles—full of donated food, household items, gift cards, small presents for children and teens, and winter essentials like gloves and scarves for the family. The annual Christmas drive is one of the largest in the Toronto Catholic District School Board with about 90 local families each receiving eight to 10 packages this year.
For over 25 years, families from the Treatment Research and Education for Autism and Developmental Disorders (TRE-ADD) program* have been receiving annual bundles while families from other Surrey Place Centre programs have been recipients the past three years.
This year, a total of about 300-350 boxes will be delivered to approximately 35 families in the Surrey Place Centre community.
“Most families who come for the first time often expect a basket and then they see all these boxes, they usually can’t believe it,” said Christine McGrann, a Family Support Coach at Surrey Place Centre’s TRE-ADD program. “Families are quite overwhelmed, grateful, humble and simply thankful.”
On Friday December 16th, Michael Power – St. Joseph High School’s cafeteria was full of hundreds of boxes waiting to be delivered or picked up by families. Dressed in red sweaters, dozens of students braced the cold winter weather as they loaded packages into vehicles.
McGrann organizes the delivery of the donated boxes to Surrey Place Centre families and knows the differences the packages can make for those on the receiving end.
“Many of our families are burden with expenses that receiving something like this can save some families their food bill for the month,” said McGrann. “Treats like cereal are items some families cannot imagine getting because it’s not in their monthly budgets.”
Some of the Surrey Place Centre families receiving packages this year are part of the TRE-ADD Program, a comprehensive day treatment program that provides services for children and youth with autism and related developmental disorders and their families. Others families are part of Surrey Place Centre’s School Support Program and the Parenting Enhancement Program (PEP), a parent skill training and support service for parents with developmental disabilities.
Over the years, McGrann has been working closely with the school’s event organizer and lead chaplain, Nancy Mideo.
“Our kids are amazing and it is how they come together with the community to support each other,” said Mideo. And although staff members are involved, it is the senior students who lead the event.
“It’s pretty outstanding what these kids do for others,” said Mideo. “It’s what Christmas is all about. It really is a wonderful thing.”
*Editor’s note: The TRE-ADD program was operated directly by the Ministry of Children and Youth since approximately 1980. Following the closure of Thistletown Regional Centre, the TRE-ADD program was officially transferred to Surrey Place Centre in October 2013.