While cookies and gifts are always welcome holiday treats, a visit to a local elementary school proved Wednesday that quality time often trumps presents under the tree.
With an abundance of holiday spirit in tow, more than 200 Brock students headed just minutes from campus to Prince of Wales Public School in Thorold for a celebration they hoped the youngsters they encountered would never forget.
The annual Holiday Extravaganza, organized by Brock’s Concurrent Education Student Association (CESA), paired each of the roughly 160 kindergarten to Grade 8 students with a Brock buddy for a day of festive activities.
The event has grown over the years, evolving into a day packed with visits from special guests, gifts for the children, holiday crafts, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities.
“As we’ve worked through the process over time, it’s become more student centred,” said Prince of Wales Principal and Brock alumna Sue Lawrence (BA ’81, BEd ’83, MEd ’01), “It’s become very 21st century. They’ve added technology and there are crafts that are age and grade appropriate,”
Options are also offered for students who don’t celebrate Christmas to ensure the day is inclusive.
Behind the scenes, 58 CESA members were on hand to make sure the day went smoothly. Preparations for the event, from recruiting volunteers to gathering donations and community support, begin months in advance.
“There were many amazing organizations who donated to Holiday Extravaganza,” said Courtney Kelly, a fourth-year Concurrent Teacher Education student and one of the event co-ordinators. “We are so grateful for all of their support and know that this event would not be possible without these gracious donors. We would like to give special recognition to Brock’s Faculty of Education, Brock Sports, Staples, Natrel and Foodland for their contributions to our event.”
Special guests who volunteered their time were also critical to making the day a success.
Prince of Wales students were enchanted with four Disney princesses — Brock students employed by Party Perfect Niagara — during craft and STEM sessions in the morning.
Athletes from Brock’s men’s basketball, women’s hockey, track and field and men’s baseball joined Prince of Wales students for energetic outdoor activities after lunch.
The day ended with each child receiving a gift from Santa, played by Brock student David Harfield, and his elves. Students also received packages of healthy food, school supplies and other items contributed by donors.
“I don’t know who gets more out of it,” Lawrence said of the Prince of Wales students and their volunteer counterparts. “The Brock students are unbelievable. They plan for months and months and months.”
For some of the young students, the Holiday Extravaganza is a chance to forget about challenging circumstances they may be dealing with at home, Lawrence said.
For the Brock volunteers, the day is an opportunity to give back to the Niagara community.
“As future teachers, our aim is to become connected with the community,” said Taylor McDonald, a fourth-year Concurrent Teacher Education student and CESA’s Vice-President of External Affairs.
Events like the Holiday Extravaganza help Concurrent Teacher Education students prepare for their future careers.
“Throughout my studies, I’ve learned the meaning of providing help to students academically and socially,” said Josh Lupo, a second-year Concurrent Teacher Education student and one the co-ordinators of the event. “By participating in Holiday Extravaganza, I am able to use what I have learned as a future teacher and apply it to these students.”
For everyone involved, the day ends with a full heart and a grateful mindset, said Tayler Villamere, a fourth-year Concurrent Teacher Education student and President of CESA.
“Holiday Extravaganza reminds everyone of the true meaning of the holidays.”