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Opinion

Jeers abound at Cheer Board event

Annual hamper-packing contest is a great challenge for a great cause

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2016 (1022 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I always feel like Charlie Brown at this time of year.

I say this because whenever I show up for a festive media challenge to support a local charity — prepare to become misty-eyed — nobody wants to be my partner.

The problem is, like the legendary Peanuts character, I have a special gift for finishing dead last in charity competitions and none of my media buddies want a dead weight like me dragging their team to defeat.

On Tuesday morning, however, when I competed in the annual hamper-packing battle in support of the Christmas Cheer Board, I came up with a unique solution — I made my daughter, Kayleigh, come with me.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2016 (1022 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I always feel like Charlie Brown at this time of year.

I say this because whenever I show up for a festive media challenge to support a local charity — prepare to become misty-eyed — nobody wants to be my partner.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Natalina Porpiglia-Dafnis, specialist with Sobeys, presents Kai Madsen, executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board, with a $10,000 company donation cheque at the launch of the annual grocery donation bag campaign </p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Natalina Porpiglia-Dafnis, specialist with Sobeys, presents Kai Madsen, executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board, with a $10,000 company donation cheque at the launch of the annual grocery donation bag campaign

The problem is, like the legendary Peanuts character, I have a special gift for finishing dead last in charity competitions and none of my media buddies want a dead weight like me dragging their team to defeat.

On Tuesday morning, however, when I competed in the annual hamper-packing battle in support of the Christmas Cheer Board, I came up with a unique solution — I made my daughter, Kayleigh, come with me.

The thing is, she’s taking a break from classes in Thunder Bay to visit us, so I told her that if she wanted to use my car then she’d have to be my partner in this year’s hamper challenge to kick off the Cheer Board’s 97th campaign helping the city’s less fortunate enjoy the festive season.

The challenge pits two-person media teams against one another to see who is the fastest at packing a Christmas hamper intended for a single mom and a six-year-old child.

A standard hamper contains a complete Christmas dinner plus some extras, such as a toy, a book and a piece of holiday knitting — a tuque, for example.

Kayleigh’s role was to shout out the items we needed and put them into the hamper, whereas my job was to waddle over to a pair of giant plastic bins, root around for various food items, elbow other media personalities, then waddle back to Kayleigh with the stuff on our list.

This was the perfect division of labour for us in the sense that my daughter is extremely comfortable ordering me around, while I always enjoy an opportunity to fling canned goods baseball-style.

I do not wish to brag, but Kayleigh and I formed a crackerjack team that relied on a can-do attitude and that special father-daughter method for communicating. It sounded like this:

My daughter: "DAD, WE NEED PANCAKE SYRUP!"

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Doug Speirs sorts through a bin of non-perishables beside competitor Pamela Roz of the QX104 team during the Hamper Packing Challenge 3.0 competition Tuesday at the Christmas Cheer Board.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Doug Speirs sorts through a bin of non-perishables beside competitor Pamela Roz of the QX104 team during the Hamper Packing Challenge 3.0 competition Tuesday at the Christmas Cheer Board.

Me: "What? Did you say pancake mix? How many boxes do we need?"

My daughter: "YOU’RE NOT MY REAL FATHER!"

Thanks to this special bond, coupled with my daughter’s superior organizational skills and highly trained brain cells, our team managed — cue emotional theme music — to come in dead last.

Fortunately, Kayleigh just enjoyed seeing what her dad does for a living and was gracious in defeat.

"If I do it next year, I want a new team member," she chirped as I stood there, soaked in sweat and huffing and puffing like a steam engine on a kids TV show.

"I could tell by your pace that we were going to lose."

The hamper-packing crown went to 94.3 The Drive morning hosts Tom McGouran and Kerri Salki.

"I’d have to credit my partner, Kerri — and her shopping experience, knowing how to spot an item quicker than anyone I’ve ever met," Tom crowed after accepting the victor’s plaque.

"And coming in and beating a veteran packer like you does make me feel kind of special."

Linda Grayston, the Cheer Board’s assistant chief elf, tried to spare my feelings.

"Well, Doug," she said. "I think it was wise of you to bring your daughter along because next of kin is helpful in case of mishaps."

Then she proudly handed me a participant’s plaque.

"We figured we’d frame it for you this year, because it’s going to be quite a while before you get one that says ‘Winner,’ " she pointed out, chortling.

When it comes to packing, speed is essential, because the board is hoping to fill up 18,500 hampers this season.

"That’s a lot of work," Kai Madsen, the board’s head elf, told me after the challenge.

"We need about 4,000 volunteers for the packing process and to do the deliveries, which start on Dec. 8. It’s all schoolkids that pack the hampers. We don’t allow adults to pack them, because the kids do a better job."

The demand for hampers has been steady for the past five years.

"We need to raise about $900,000 to cover the 50 per cent we need to buy," Kai said.

"We buy about half the groceries and half the toys. The rest is donated."

The Cheer Board is counting on Free Press readers to fill about 53,000 grocery bags delivered with Tuesday’s newspaper.

"You take the bag, fill it up — the most-needed items are listed on the bag — and drop it in the food-donation bin at any Safeway, Sobeys or IGA store," noted Kai, who is in his 47th Christmas with the Cheer Board.

Donations are already trickling in, but "it’s slow," Kai sighed.

"At this point, we’ve raised about $200,000 of the $900,000 we need. We’d like to be closer to $400,000 at this point. We need people to sit down and write that cheque to the Cheer Board."

You heard the man, folks: Give until it hurts, because it’s the right thing to do.

Also, you’ll be making my daughter very proud and that’s not easy. Trust me.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs
Columnist

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.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 7:46 AM CST: Adds photos

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