Edmonton Sun columnist Graham Hicks holds up Wal-Mart gift cards for Adopt-A-Teen at the Edmonton Sun studio in Edmonton, Alta., on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. Hicks started Adopt-A-Teen 15 years ago. Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun/QMI AgencyCodie McLachlan / Codie McLachlan/Edmonton Sun


During the 18 years I chaired the Edmonton Sun’s annual Adopt-A-Teen Christmas gift program for underprivileged teens, I will admit to some minor despair.

In the program’s early years, legal advisors pointed out the original Adopt-A-Teen process — connecting families with teens needing gifts to families wanting to help — could land my newspaper in hot legal water if anything went wrong.

We had to switch to buying gift cards that are now mailed out to teens in all the Edmonton under-privileged families registered with the Edmonton Christmas Bureau or The Salvation Army.

It’s a good system. Your donations are used to purchase an Adopt-A-Teen’s $50 Walmart gift cards for those teens – 6,000 this year. And teen privacy is paramount. At schools, it’s nobody’s business who is or isn’t receiving an Adopt-A-Teen Christmas gift card.

But mailing out gift cards removed the personal touch.

On Adopt-A-Teen’s behalf, the Christmas Bureau mailed (and continues to mail) thousands of gift cards to the teens every year.

As the organizing committee, it was not our business to know or contact any recipients.

The detachment was frustrating. To the rescue came wonderful thank-you notes from teens and their parents that continue to pour in

Here are heart-warming examples. For authenticity’s sake, they are unedited.

If they do not inspire you to donate, I don’t know what will.

Dear donors
I’m a girl who has is just turned 13 and who is very thank you for donated your wonderful Christmas gift which was Walmart $50 gift card to me. I used this for my family. Our family went Walmart. First of all, we bought strawberries and whipping cream as a special treat to go with our breakfast. I also bought hair bands that I’m sharing with my sister. Your present was so enough for me. It is 2 time more than I get in a month from my parents. That gift card was so precious for me and my family.

• • •

To Adopt-A-Teen: I would like to say thank you for your Christmas gift card on behalf of my 13-year-old daughter, it was a big surprise. This will encourage her to contribute to the society in the future. The value of this gift card to a teens is much more than its monetary number, we family appreciates very much for sending her this gorgeous spirit!

 • • •

This Christmas I could not afford to buy any Christmas gifts for my children.  There simply was no money. As a mom, this broke my heart. I can handle being poor all year long, but at Christmas … People seldom understand what it is like to set up a Christmas Tree, knowing there will be no gifts under it. The gift cards I received from Adopt-A-Teen changed all that. I was able buy a gift for each of my teenagers. Thank you for this Christmas miracle.

Can you help?

Fifty dollars will give one teen a meaningful Christmas, $100 for two and so on. The easiest way to donate is online using a credit card — for the teens at adoptateenedmonton.ca,  for the families at christmasbureau.ca.

Please spread the word on social media, #adoptateenyeg,  #passtheplateyeg.

If  families need assistance, please direct them to The Christmas Bureau’s Walk-Up Days next Thursday and Friday, Dec. 20 and 21 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Jerry Forbes Centre, 12122 68 St. (just south of Yellowhead Trail). Food or food gift cards, children’s toys and teen gift-cards will be available. Proof of income and residency, plus ID for every family member, must be provided.

If you have questions, if you would like to share a thank-you or an inspirational story, please call or e-mail me – Graham Hicks – at 780-707-6379, graham.hicks@hicksbiz.com.

Merry Christmas!