Save your cards for next year’s Christmas greetings for soldiers
Dianne and Brian Harrison are already thinking about next year’s campaign to bring joy to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving at home and abroad
With the holidays fast approaching, your Christmas cards were probably in the mail a week or two ago if you’re the type of person who does things like this.
But if you have cards left over after your family and friends have been taken care of, don’t throw them away — consider donating them to Aurora’s Dianne Harrison, who will make sure the cards get to some of the people who need them Most of them will put a smile on their faces next season.
Despite a brief hiccup from contracting COVID-19 earlier in the month, Harrison and her husband Brian made their annual trek to their local postal depot laden with dozens of shoeboxes full of Christmas cards written to members of the Canadian Armed both domestically and internationally stationed forces.
Inspired by their late friend Vhonda Harper, mother of a man who served in Afghanistan and led the card writing campaign in her final years, the Harrisons have taken the torch and for nearly 15 years soldiers have been given a little extra to open on Christmas Day .
Under her leadership, the initiative has caught on across Ontario, and this year is no exception.
“We recently shipped 7,650 cards and expect to ship another 1,000 on Monday,” Harrison said on Friday. “There’s also 250 residents and military at Sunnybrook Hospital and we’re driving 260 cards down there because we want to make sure we have a card for everyone.”
This year’s campaign can be summed up in one word, she said: “Wonderful.”
Of the more than 8,000 cards and drawings — from participants ranging from a crayon-wielding three-year-old to a 90-year-old who had likely found something less waxy to write with — all messages came straight from the heart, in appreciation for the services provided provide intended recipients on behalf of King and Country.
“The messages this year came from the heart because they know what the military is going through, and everything was sent with respect, devotion and caring – it was really beautiful,” says Harrison. “The number of drawings we’ve received from children as young as three or four is amazing, because how do you know if a soldier isn’t going to be a mother or father to a three-year-old?”
She says support for this year’s campaign helped make it such a success was a support from the Optimist Club of Aurora, who not only helped distribute cards locally but also enlisted the support of their peers in Barrie, who sent another 1,000 submitted—and more to come from communities as diverse as Chatham and Mitchell.
“We haven’t gotten as many tickets from schools as we have in the past because of the potential strike ahead, and many schools have stepped in at the last moment,” she adds. “If we got the volume from schools, we probably would have gone over 9,000.”
They may have had to take a few days off because of the virus but they didn’t let that stop them and Ms Harrison added: ‘We can’t get sick at this time of year; there is too much to do. This is something that must be done. The military knows we miss and care for them here at home.
“This coming year I’m asking if people have a card left at the end of 2022, put it aside. Even if people only have one or two cards, that would be phenomenal. We have no idea how these cards will touch soldiers’ hearts. The senders are blessed and so is the recipient.”
If you have spare cards to contribute to their mission, contact Brian and Dianne Harrison at [email protected]
Brock Weir is a government-funded reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative at The Auroran