Tims’ cookie campaign something to smile about
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When I reached Jane Kidd-Hantscher on her cellphone Wednesday morning, I could tell the executive director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation wasn’t sitting behind her desk.
“I’m in my car,” she explained, laughing, “and, coincidentally, I’m in a Tim Hortons’ drive-thru. I knew you were going to call so I thought I’d get breakfast first.
The fact Kidd-Hantscher was making a pit stop at Tims was more than a little coincidental because I was calling her to discuss the launch of Tim Hortons’ 2022 Smile Cookie campaign, wherein the proceeds from every $1 chocolate-chunk Smile Cookie sold in the city from Monday, Sept. 19, until Sunday, Sept. 25, goes to the foundation to help pay for programs and specialized equipment for disabled children and youths up to the age of 21.
For the past eight years, the cookie campaign has helped the foundation raise cash for everything from adaptive bicycles and lightweight wheelchairs to iPads that help kids communicate with their families. Not to mention inclusive leisure programs such as art therapy, cooking clubs, music therapy, a Saturday Night for Teens club, and summer camps for children and youths with physical and developmental challenges.
Kidd-Hantscher explained she had just finished presenting a specialized bicycle to a disabled 17-year-old student at Oak Park High School.
To say that ceremony was emotional would be an understatement.
“I don’t know why I bother putting on mascara in the morning,” she said. “It was pretty emotional this morning. He (the student) was so excited. His mom was crying and hugging everyone.
“They told us it was a dream getting his own bike. When he got on the bike, he was surrounded by his classmates and peers. His mom just cried happy tears. It makes the long days and the tough days very worthwhile.
“If I could bottle what I saw this morning — the reactions and the emotions — it’s just life-changing.”
The money raised by Smile Cookies has been a lifeline for the rehabilitation foundation, especially over the past two difficult years. Unlike some charities, however, the foundation found a silver lining amid the despair of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first year of the pandemic, Smile Cookies raised a record $175,296. Last year’s cookie campaign in Winnipeg broke that record, bringing in $203,000.
“That was amazing,” Kidd-Hantscher said. “It was a bright spot in a pretty tough time. It’s such a positive campaign going toward such a great cause, and people really wanted to support it.
“We are just so grateful to Tim Hortons. They do so much for the community and I think the community really responds to that. This campaign brings in about 15 per cent of our annual revenue. Without it, we just wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many children and youth in the province that really need our support.”
For the first five years of the campaign, my buddy Big Daddy Tazz the comedian and I helped kick things off by taking part in a cookie-decorating contest that resembled a European soccer riot mixed with a kindergarten Christmas pageant.
But that in-person cookie battle wasn’t possible during the height of the pandemic. Instead, the foundation dropped off boxes of cookies at the homes and offices of local media personalities, asking us to decorate them with pink and blue icing, then post photos on social media.
This year, however, on Monday morning, the in-person battle finally resumes, with media teams gathering at the foundation’s office to compete once again for the coveted Smile Cookie Cup, which is like the Stanley Cup but even more delicious.
Along with visiting your local Tims, you can pre-order Smile Cookies and have them delivered by calling the foundation at 204-258-6700 or by visiting crf.mb.ca and filling out the online order form. There’s a minimum order of two dozen cookies.
Normally, at this point, I’d brag about my cookie-decorating prowess and make a heartfelt plea for readers to buy as many Smile Cookies as humanly possible, starting Monday. But today I’m leaving that sales job to the boss of the rehabilitation foundation.
“I want people to buy Smile Cookies in droves,” she told me. “They can eat them themselves or give them as gifts to bring smiles to people they know, and they can do it knowing they are bringing smiles to the faces of children and youth that really need it. We are grateful for all the support, but the reality is we need more of it.”
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.