Alberta man fixes old video game consoles to create Christmas joy for needy families

An Alberta man who reached out to the community for help one Christmas Eve is now helping others in need for the fourth year in a row. 

Jasen Kerr, a single father recovering from cancer and struggling with his savings, had bought a couple of PlayStation 3 games as gifts for his children. 

The day before Christmas, their video game console died. 

“Christmastime, we didn’t have much,” Kerr said, recalling the circumstances that led to him starting Jay’s Charity for Families in Need.

Kerr put a call out for help on social media and by the morning, he had four consoles and about 100 games. 

“That day, I gave out the other three consoles and a bunch of the games to other families that I knew,” he said.

His charity collects donated video games, consoles, computers and more, fixes them up and then gives them to families in the Edmonton area in need just in time for Christmas morning.

‘Overwhelming response’

In its second year, the charity gave out 11 consoles, and in year three, 14. 

“This year, I think I’m up to almost 30,” Kerr said.

“The overwhelming response to some of the ads I put out for requests for donations is absolutely amazing. And this year I am surprised with how many people have actually contacted us for help.”

He uses Facebook to find people in need, by publishing posts seeking nominations of families and for people who have reached out for assistance.

Kerr’s spare room is packed full of donated video game consoles, games and electronics. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Kerr’s spare room at his home in Gibbons, Alta., just about 35 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, is packed full of donated video game consoles, games and electronics. He works through the year to clean, repair and test them. 

With the help of volunteers, he aims to deliver packages containing a console, controllers and several games to more than two dozen families by Wednesday.

Much of the equipment and games are old versions but Kerr says it’s still a special experience for the kids.

“I wouldn’t say proud but I’m humbled to be able to help these people,” Kerr said. “Because I had the help at one point so I know how it feels to be wanting to provide for your kids.

“To me, it’s not about the parents, it’s about the smile on the kid’s face when they are able to actually open something and see that … hey, it’s not too bad.”

Once all the gifts have been delivered and they’re safely tucked under the tree, Kerr says he will get back to work preparing for next year.

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