Orange Santa campaign shares the love

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ROSEAU RIVER ANISHINABE FIRST NATION — Orange Santa wants to spread the message: every child deserves to feel special at Christmas.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/12/2021 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

ROSEAU RIVER ANISHINABE FIRST NATION — Orange Santa wants to spread the message: every child deserves to feel special at Christmas.

As such, the new Southern Chiefs’ Organization holiday campaign will deliver nearly 3,000 gifts to children across 10 Manitoba First Nations.

“I had to wipe off a few tears,” Glenn Courchane, his eyes glistening behind a plastic face shield, said Monday. “It just feels incredible. Sometimes, I need time to debrief afterward.”

TYLER SEARLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Students at Ginew School embrace Santa in a hug Monday afternoon after he stopped by to bring them gifts and Christmas cheer, Monday.

Courchane, clad in an orange satin overcoat with rabbit fur trim, will act as Santa for thousands of children before the campaign is over. He plays the role well, boasting a full head of long white hair, a matching beard, and a hearty chuckle.

“The kids come up and pull on my beard to make sure I’m the real Santa,” he said.

Courchane and a small team of SCO staff were visiting Ginew School at Roseau River to deliver treats and gifts to 150 students Monday.

TYLER SEARLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ginew School Grade one student Suraya S., asks Santa to lean in close so she can whisper her Christmas request in his ear. She asked him to bring her dog back to life.

The children, who ranged from pre-schoolers to Grade 8 students, gathered in cohorts for their turn to meet Santa.

“Do you know why Santa is wearing orange this year?” Courchane asked each group. “Because every child matters. You all matter.”

He was greeted with smiles and laughter; children extending their hands for a fist-bump from Santa before ripping into their gifts.

Each present featured an assortment of goods (among them Hot Wheels toys, Frisbees and plushies). The treats consisted of oranges and chocolates.

Courchane asked the kids to leave out warm cookies, milk, and bannock for Santa in return.

The goal of the Orange Santa campaign is to ensure every child knows they are special and loved, said Cailin Hodder, political advisor to SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.

Daniels conceived the idea earlier this year after the discovery of more than 200 potential unmarked gravesites on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. The legacy of the residential school system has weighed heavily on SCO staffers, and the team wanted to do its part to spread Christmas cheer, Hodder said.

“The holidays are a great time for family, friends and community to come together in a good way, showing love and sharing happiness,” Daniels wrote in a news release announcing the campaign.

Hodder and the SCO team had the orange Santa costume tailor-made and also donated orange ribbon skirts to all of the chiefs from SCO’s 34 member First Nations, Hodder said.

The grand chief planned to deliver the gifts alongside Courchane and the SCO team but felt ill and decided to stay home out of caution, she said.

The SCO is funding the campaign with help from a few sponsorship partners, including Vickar Automotive Group, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and Teekca’s Boutique.

Roseau River (some 90 kilometres south of Winnipeg) was the second stop on the Orange Santa tour (the team visited Skownan First Nation last week); the campaign ends Dec. 22.

Next up, Courchane and Hodder will take a chartered flight to Poplar River and Bloodvein First Nations, while another SCO team heads to Ebb and Flow First Nation.

SCO hopes this year marks the beginning of an annual tradition, Hodder said.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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