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Gary Effect embraces giving spirit

Sisters continue late father's campaign to spread holiday joy

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It started out with gloves and hot chocolate and four years later has snowballed into a two-day gift-giving campaign.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/12/2014 (2904 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It started out with gloves and hot chocolate and four years later has snowballed into a two-day gift-giving campaign.

The Gary Effect, founded by sisters Kay Lizon and Jessica Boittiaux, aims to spread a little joy this holiday season with random acts of kindness.

The sisters, along with 39 volunteers, hit the streets Monday and Tuesday to hand out gifts and gift cards door-to-door and to passersby on the street and bus. They ended the two-day blitz at Siloam Mission with more than 2,100 gifts given.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jessica Boittiaux (from left), Kay Lizon and Chris Smith of the Gary Effect hand out presents to people on the street in front of Siloam Mission Tuesday.

Looking to continue their father’s passion for giving back to the community, the sisters began the Gary Effect to honour their late father, Gary Boittiaux, who died almost 20 years ago.

“It really just started off with me and (Jessica) talking about how we can remember Dad and how we can do something for the community that means just as much as he did,” Lizon said. “Next thing you know, people were dropping off food and gifts and toys, and it just ballooned from there.”

The campaign began its first year with eight volunteers and 800 gifts. Through fundraising and donations from the Winnipeg Police Service, the Hilton Suites Winnipeg and Holy Family Home, the Gary Effect has tripled its initial donation count — an accomplishment neither sister expected.

“It’s pretty remarkable. Just knowing that even if we give out 100 or 1,000 presents, that one of them may change a person’s day for the better,” Lizon said. “We’re just trying to make a little bit of a difference. We hope it inspires people to do the same thing.”

“We were hoping for it but never expected it,” said Boittiaux in response to the reception the Gary Effect has received.

While the sisters host events throughout the year, a good chunk of their time goes into preparing for their Christmas endeavour, beginning with a fundraiser in November. Lizon said she understands the toll the holidays can have on those less fortunate.

“Christmas is typically a stressful time of year. We want to help alleviate some of that stress and remind people about the gift of giving rather than receiving and just hope that they are going to pay it forward.”

As the sisters wrap up another successful giveaway, memories of their father remain strong.

“He would be right here with us. This is (I assume) his idea and we just put it forward,” said Boittiaux.

bhobson@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Wednesday, December 24, 2014 5:59 AM CST: Replaces photo

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