HOLIDAY SPIRIT- Erica Wilkinson

Festival of Wreaths runs in Blackfalds and Lacombe

Big Brothers Big Sisters recently launch annual holiday fundraiser

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District (BBBS) will once again hold their annual Festival of Wreaths fundraiser at the Lacombe Memorial Centre (LMC) and at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds this year.

The annual fundraiser sees local businesses decorate wreaths with gifts and prizes, such as Edmonton Oilers box seats or Johnny Reid tickets. The wreaths are then put up for auction, with all proceeds going to support BBBS programs and services.

“It’s quite amazing, not only how beautiful they are, but how much product and gift certificates are actually included on them,” said BBBS Executive Director Crystal Zens.

This year’s silent auction is already underway and bids can be placed either in person at the LMC or Abbey Centre or online.

“The goal for our wreath campaign is usually $5,000 but this year we doubled in size. The expansion of Blackfalds has been phenomenal,” Zens said.

Last year was the first time BBBS held an auction in Blackfalds and they had a total of eight wreaths donated.

This year, that number has more than tripled.

“With the community support we went to 29. It’s been really awesome, we’ve had a really good response from the community,” said Erica Wilkinson, who is in charge of the Blackfalds auction.

All of the wreaths that are auctioned off are decorated by businesses in Lacombe and Blackfalds using a wreath provided by BBBS.

“Their teams usually work on them and they’re very creative. A lot of businesses say that it’s a really fun team project. They have a lot of creativity, plus they get to splash their business flair on them,” Zens said, adding many businesses like to use the wreath making as a sort of team building exercise.

Each wreath contains at least $150 worth of gift certificates, toys and gifts, with the highest, Zens said, being worth around $2,000.

“They’re a great gift to give at Christmas. They’re like a different type of gift basket,” she said.

While there aren’t really any rules to the wreath building, Zens said there is a contest for the top three wreaths, which will be determined through a public vote.

“We do try to auction off the top couple of wreaths at live auctions throughout Christmas. That’s not determined yet, but in the past we have auctioned them off at the Fireman’s Ball and AFSC Christmas Party and if we can find a venue to do that we will do that,” she said.

Zens said BBBS is happy with the amount of support both the communities of Blackfalds and Lacombe have shown the program. “We had an outstanding turnout and an amazing amount of effort and love and generosity put into the wreaths this year.”

The wreaths at the LMC may be all the same shape and size, but they vary widely when it comes to style and decorations.

One, for example, is decked out entirely in Coca Cola colours, including having been spraypainted silver to match the theme. Another is decorated entirely with plastic toy tools.

“I like seeing all of the creativity that people can come up with. Just different themes and seeing how creative these people can actually get, and seeing how excited and how proud they are when you go to pick them up,” Wilkinson said.

And that support is a big deal for a non-profit like BBBS.

“It’s our entire being. We are completely operated off the support from the community and it will help sustain our programs and help fund our work helping kids get mentors and mentoring programs in our community,” Zens said.

“Being a not for profit agency, if we didn’t have people who would support fundraisers we would have no money to help the kids so it’s virtually what creates us,” Wilkinson added.

This year’s event features 31 wreaths in Lacombe and 29 in Blackfalds to bring the total to 60 wreaths that will be auctioned off.

Bidding is open now and runs through Dec. 16th. Bids can be made either in person at the LMC or Abbey Centre or online. To bid online, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lacombe Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bigbrothers.lacombe/.

zcormier@lacombeexpress.com