Little Santas event brings holiday cheer to Edmonton-area single-parent families

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Hundreds of little Santas descended on a St. Albert church Saturday to help spread holiday cheer.

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The second annual Little Santa’s event, run by Kaleo Collective, lets children from single-parent families pick out a Christmas gift for mom or dad from the Little Santas’ workshop, while parents pick up a meal and care package.

“They can go home together and have a really beautiful holiday memory that the children are actually behind making, which is different because usually, it’s mom who is behind all of the holiday memories that the kids are making,” said Layna Haley, founder and executive director of Kaleo Collective.

Kaleo Collective is a registered charity that helps support single moms and their children, a gap Haley wanted to address after becoming a single mom when she was 16.

Haley launched the Little Santas program last year where 97 children were given the opportunity to give a gift to their moms during the holidays.

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This year, the single dads were able to register and the program has grown exponentially, with 500 kids and their parents descending on the St. Albert Alliance Church, located at 200 Villeneuve Rd.

Haley said the growth has been “incredible” but could also be a reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has been hard and I think the pandemic has caused some families to re-evaluate,” Haley said.

“A lot of togetherness sometimes has created friction points in families and I think we’re just seeing more single-parent families right now than we have seen in the past.”

A woman with a gingerbread house in hand, walks past the meals to go after her child selected a special gift for her at the Little Santas’ Workshop, as about 500 kids from single-parent homes in Edmonton and area learned the classic Christmas lesson that it’s better to give than to receive at Kaleo Collective’s holiday event which also included a to go meal and care package, at the St. Albert Alliance Church, December 11, 2021. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
A woman with a gingerbread house in hand, walks past the meals to go after her child selected a special gift for her at the Little Santas’ Workshop, as about 500 kids from single-parent homes in Edmonton and area learned the classic Christmas lesson that it’s better to give than to receive at Kaleo Collective’s holiday event which also included a to go meal and care package, at the St. Albert Alliance Church, December 11, 2021. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

Michelle Los, and her son Parker, attended the Little Santas event Saturday morning. Los became a single parent when her husband died in 2017.

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“It’s nice for my son to be able to come and have people support him to pick a gift to have something that’s under the tree that I haven’t had any part in and it’s a surprise, and I think it just gives him a sense of pride,” Los said.

Taking part in the Little Santas event also means that the giving and volunteering spirit is modelled for her son, she said.

“I think it’s really good that this organization is here and provides opportunities for kids to have a positive experience too, because I think maybe sometimes he has some feelings about dad not being here to bring him shopping to pick something out, that was a part of their ritual,” Los said.

“There’s other people that have sort of stepped into that role for him.”

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Enokson siblings Damian, 9, Sapphire, 7 and Scarlett, 8 selecting a special gift for their mom with help from the Little Santas’ Workshop volunteer Kristen Edmiston, as about 500 kids from single parent homes in Edmonton and area learned the classic Christmas lesson that it’s better to give than to receive. At Kaleo Collective’s holiday event which also included a to go meal and care package, at the St. Albert Alliance Church, December 11, 2021. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Enokson siblings Damian, 9, Sapphire, 7 and Scarlett, 8 selecting a special gift for their mom with help from the Little Santas’ Workshop volunteer Kristen Edmiston, as about 500 kids from single parent homes in Edmonton and area learned the classic Christmas lesson that it’s better to give than to receive. At Kaleo Collective’s holiday event which also included a to go meal and care package, at the St. Albert Alliance Church, December 11, 2021. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

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