In the spirit of her late son Coleton Nelson and grandson Ryker McClurg, Brenda Nelson and her daughter Chrystie have stepped forth to ease the lives of struggling families.
“We sponsor a minimum 10 families every year,” Brenda said, “because the number 10 was Coleton’s favourite number.”
This year, 11 families from Abbotsford’s Christmas bureau have been assigned to Coleton’s Clause and Ryker’s Reindeer memorial fundraisers, made up of Brenda’s family, friends, and even neighbours in Aldergrove.
And what they do goes way beyond giving out Christmas hampers, Brenda clarified.
“It’s a carload of everything they want for Christmas and everything they could need for the next three months,” she explained, including food, winter clothing, toiletries, and even housewares.
“Anything they need to get by at home, and anything on the kid’s wish list – you name it, they get it.”
One of the families that remain near and dear to Brenda’s heart was that of a father battling terminal cancer three years ago.
After enjoying a Christmas stocked full of everything his family could have ever hoped for, the father passed away the next day.
“It was almost like he was waiting to see his family get help and be okay before he died,” Brenda explained.
His mother dubbed the group angels, saying that they came at just the right moment, when they thought they wouldn’t be able to survive the holidays.
“We take care of everything because we want them to not have to worry for a very long time” and focus their efforts on other things, like securing a job or recovering from an illness, if necessary, Brenda said.
On Sunday, a few days before Christmas, her trusty team of volunteers loaded up their vehicles with gifts and necessities and convoyed their carloads – including $200 worth of vegetables and perishable meal items for each family – to the 11 houses to be showered with gifts.
The group carried the hauls into each house, to the astonishment of many of the families.
“Most of them are absolutely overwhelmed. Half of them are crying. It’s a state of disbelief they are in,” Brenda elaborated.
“We come in with one box and they are happy and then we say: ‘Oh, we’re not done yet.’
“Ten loads later, and we’re all hugging,” she recalled.
“Doing this is my Christmas presents. It’s what I really get excited about every year,” Brenda added.
When asked why she doesn’t spread the initiative wider by giving less to more families, Brenda is adamant that she wants to “spoil each child” as if they were her own.
“My children got spoiled. Why not theirs?”
The mother insisted she’d “rather help 10 families for three months, than 20 families for three days.”
“Our goal is to help them get out of that rut,” Brenda explained, adding that the group does not sponsor the same family twice.
Initially, it was the intense loss the mother felt during her first Christmas without her 12-year-old son Coleton after he was killed in a car accident in 2011, that inspired her to pour out her maternal love unto others.
For her daughter Chrystie, who lost her son Ryker from an illness five years after her brother, the giving has been therapeutic.
Together, in the seven years since Brenda first spearheaded the initiative, the mom and daughter estimate having helped nearly 80 families of Langley, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack.
Just this month, several from the group took it upon themselves to go carolling ‘round the streets of Aldergrove to drum up more support for the families.
After serenading 15 houses, the team raised $160 dollars in donations, which they dispersed among the families.
The group hosts yearly fundraisers to keep up with the costs of their giving, totalling over $10,000 total this year.