Radiothon raises $24K for Santa Fund, which leaves firefighters adjusting donation budget
November 25th marked the beginning of many Christmas events held in West Nipissing, with both the Santa Fund Radiothon and a downtown tree lighting ceremony. Both events had a great turnout, with over $24,000 in donations raised for the Santa Fund and over 150 people braving the cold to see the giant tree lit up.
The Tree-Lighting Ceremony attracted a crowd that filled nearly the entire intersection of John and King Streets in downtown Sturgeon Falls. People gathered with their families to watch as the large spruce on the corner of the Community Living property was lit up.
“When the concept of a tree-lighting ceremony was initially discussed, Community Living was our first call. They welcomed us and the community with open arms, sharing their beautiful spruce with all of the residents of West Nipissing. This event would not have been possible without them,” describes Kassandra Girard, Economic Development Officer with the municipality. She explains that the event was created as an official “kick-off” to the series of other holiday events in West Nipissing, which they have named “Rockin’ Around West Nipissing.”
Newly elected Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon, Fire Chief Frank Loeffen, and Community Living West Nipissing Director Sylvie Bélanger all spoke at the event before coming together to “flip the switch” on a candy cane lever to officially light the tree. The crowd also got to partake in hot chocolate and candy, which was served courtesy of École secondaire publique Nipissing Ouest, and enjoy Christmas carols sung by the students of École secondaire catholique Franco Cité. There was even a piano on site, with Franco-Cité music teacher Anne Gingras accompanying the choir.
During his speech, Fire Chief Loeffen took the opportunity to announce the success of the Radiothon which concluded just before the ceremony began. Between the Radiothon and the online silent auction, the West Nipissing Santa Fund raised a total of $24,135. The sum will help firefighters buy gifts and food baskets for local families with children under 16 years of age.
The auction, which ran from November 17th to 24th, raised $12,995 of that total through 57 items that were donated to be auctioned off. Chief Loeffen acknowledged that this year’s total is much lower than previous years’, and blamed the current economic climate. “Compared to last year, we did raise less but we have to consider the times we are faced with. Regardless, the support from business owners and individuals who donated to the auction, the bid winners and all the pledges we received are greatly appreciated and we will have to adjust our expenses to what was raised,” he stated. When asked about a possible return to a live telethon, Loeffen said nothing is decided yet, but pointed out that planning for a telethon takes significantly more time and manpower.
A surprise announcement was also made during the Tree-Lighting Ceremony. This year marked the addition of a holiday mascot to the festivities. A social media contest was held to name the new mascot, a Christmas tree. “Over 100 submissions were received across multiple platforms, with residents voting for their favourite. After a close race, ‘Twinkle’ was officially introduced at the Tree-Lighting Ceremony, as West Nipissing’s holiday mascot,” described Girard. ‘Bruce the Spruce’ came in as a very close second.
The tree lighting was only the first of many events that the “Municipal Elves” have been planning for the holidays. “The Tree-Lighting Ceremony would not have been possible without the time and efforts of our Municipal Elves. All departments played a major role in the coordination and success of the event, and we couldn’t be happier with how it all came together. We were also incredibly blessed to have a phenomenal group of volunteers, from local students to stakeholders within the community, and we are so grateful to everyone who helped make this event happen! I think we’ve started a new tradition – it would be great to make this an annual event,” beamed