Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 23/11/2018 (425 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For 99 years, the Christmas Cheer Board has been working hard to ensure everyone has a happy holiday, and for 49 of those years, Kai Madsen, the charity's executive director, has been a part of making that miracle happen.
"I thought about retiring, but making it to 50 and 100 would be really neat," he says from the Cheer Board's new location on St. James Street, acknowledging the dual significance of 2019.
Madsen's work is not easy, but it's rewarding, and it's made lighter by the generosity of Winnipeggers who help put food on tables and presents under trees by volunteering both their time and money. Making a donation to the Christmas Cheer Board has become a holiday tradition for many people.
Supporting the Christmas Cheer Board is a holiday tradition for us here at the Winnipeg Free Press, too. Today, we're kicking off our fifth annual Miracle on Mountain fundraising campaign that collects monetary donations for the Christmas Cheer Board to pay for food and other items packed into hampers.
"The tradition of our readers stepping up to help the Christmas Cheer Board is part of what makes the holiday season so special in our city," says Free Press editor Paul Samyn. "We are delighted to once again ask our audience to make a Miracle On Mountain so we can make a difference for so many at Christmas."
To help kickstart our 2018 campaign, the good folks at Canadian Tire and Paul England Sales Ltd. have come through with donations of $4000 and $6000 respectively.
Last year, Miracle on Mountain raised $100,134.80 to help make those hampers happen, but more is always needed.
"We have an open-ended policy that says regardless of how many hampers we're requested to fill, we will look after them," Madsen explains. "All of the turkeys we buy, half the toys we buy, half the groceries we buy. If we don't raise enough money for those things, we have to go in the hole."
The Christmas Cheer Board is working with a deficit of $45,000 from last year, and is looking to raise $900,000 to pay the bills and make up the shortfall.
Unfortunately, the amount of money people are donating is on the decline, Madsen says.
"This is not to knock the technology world, but we don't have the same personal contact we used to have," he says. "People used to come in here and I got to know a whole bunch of them, but now they can do it online. You'd think perhaps if you make it easier (to donate) there will be more money, but that's not the case because that personal sense of being part of something is not as strong."
It's a different world than it was nearly a century ago when the Christmas Cheer Board began, and when the city's newspapers became its de facto fundraising arm sometime in the 1940s. As newspaper people, we're always looking for new ways to engage our readers, and Madsen is hoping to reinvigorate the Miracle on Mountain campaign.
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Us too. When we were thinking about this year's campaign, my Bury the Lede podcast co-host Erin Lebar and I had an idea: what if we put on a holiday variety show to raise funds for Miracle on Mountain and bring people together for a celebration?
And so we're doing just that. Please join us for Bury the Lede Live: A Holiday Podcast Spectacular! on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. at the West End Cultural Centre. It's a live recording of the podcast/holiday concert/variety show featuring a ton of local talent, including Sandy Taronno (Quinzy, Indicator Indicator), Rusty Matyas (Imaginary Cities, Middle of Nowhere), indie-pop group Mise en Scene, ukulele comedy duo Bunny, and sketch comedy group HUNKS, along with some special guests. Possibly even a Free Press exclusive with Santa. Games will be played! Festive songs will be sung! Merriment will be had!
Tickets are $20 and went on sale Saturday, Nov. 24 at Ticketfly.com. All proceeds from the show will go to Miracle on Mountain.
Help us start a new holiday tradition.
Jen Zoratti Columnist
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
Send cheques to: Miracle on Mountain, c/o 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6
Or you can go to the Christmas Cheer Board's website to donate online: christmascheerboard.ca/ways-you-can-help/donate. Make sure to click on the "fund" pull-down menu to ensure your donation is credited to Miracle on Mountain.