Charlotte County – A few weeks ago, the St. Stephen/Milltown Lions Club announced there would not be a Santa’s Helpers radio program in St. Stephen this year, due to an aging and declining club membership. That meant anywhere in the region of 45 to 65 families wouldn’t receive the help from the program they counted on each year in order to give their children a fun and happy Christmas.
In the wake of the news, a group of concerned citizens got together and decided they would take over the program, and now Santa’s Helpers is back, but with a few changes. The new committee is now working on a plan to create a whole new style of program, and they think it will be better than ever.
Committee President Andrew Giddens said everyone on the committee have been involved with the program in some way throughout the years, either by taking part or by making donations. They saw the article by the Courier about the Lions Club wanting to pass along the torch, and they decided it was time for them to get involved.
“After reading a bunch of posts, I started sending messages out,” said Giddens. “We decided we should all get together and meet and see what we can do with this. Now, we have a group of really strong individuals who can bring something to the table to roll this event off.”
Giddens said the group met with Lions Club members and did some brainstorming with them about how they could continue putting on this popular program. He said the Lions Club provided a lot of information about various groups they have worked with in the past to air the show, and how they set it up every year.
“We talked to them and we went over it. Here we are now in the final stages. The schools are all on board,” said Giddens.
The Santa’s Helpers program was always aired live on the radio, but this year there will be a new format. Instead of a radio broadcast, it will be aired on CHCO TV. Giddens said he spoke with Patrick Watt of CHCO, who is also a member of the Santa’s Helpers committee, and they decided the program will be aired on Channel 26. This is going to make things a lot easier, especially if the weather is bad and kids can’t make it to perform.
“You don’t know what the weather is going to be like,” said Giddens. “What happens if it’s a snow storm and kids don’t show up on that day, and there is dead air? It’s not good for the station either. Patrick recommended airing on the TV station, and the schools recommended the same thing. It’s weird how it all came together.”
Instead of having the kids go to CHCO on the day of the broadcast, Giddens said Watt is going to visit the schools and record the kids singing there. That way, there will be no background noises with people talking and moving around, and the recordings will be aired throughout the day of the broadcast.
“Instead of them having to come in on a Sunday, the TV station is going to be going to the schools to record them so we can get it just right. That way, we can get it so the kids are going to sound their best. The phone lines will be live when it’s aired. A few of us will be at CHCO. In between some of the sets, we’ll be reading off pledges.”
Giddens said there will also be a change in how the money is distributed. It will still be given to St. Stephen families in need, but they are also expanding into Saint Andrews. He said the students and staff at Vincent Massey Elementary School are already on board.
“We’re going to help families in Saint Andrews and in St. Stephen. We are one community. We’re only 20 minutes apart,” said Giddens.
Giddens noted if anyone would like to make a donation before the program airs on Sunday, December 8 (tentatively from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m.), they can do so by contacting any of the committee members. They have set up a Facebook page, Santa’s Helpers on CHCO, where people can find more information about how to donate.