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A 'Christmas to Remember' for struggling families in Chilliwack

James Moffat, 6, tries his hand at pool during A Christmas to Remember at Fantasy Farms on Saturday.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
James Moffat, 6, tries his hand at pool during A Christmas to Remember at Fantasy Farms on Saturday.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

It was a 'Christmas to Remember' for 25 needy Chilliwack families Saturday afternoon.

The greenhouse at Fantasy Farms on Gibson Road was transformed into a winter wonderland with snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, 15 decorated trees, hundreds of twinkling lights, a cosy fireplace, and a dinner table with all the Christmas fixings.

For Gary Moran, owner of Fantasy Farms, it was about providing lasting memories for those who need it most.

When Chilliwack Rona approached Moran last July about organizing a Christmas event, he didn't hesitate in jumping on board. He wanted to give a little extra to those in need just as someone had for his family so many years prior.

Moran grew up in a single-income household, with three other siblings, after his father died. His mom worked hard, and they never went without. But most Christmases, the young Morans didn't have the extras that all the other neighbourhood kids had.

And then, one Christmas, two men showed up at their front door with bags of food and other such goodies.

"All four of us children remember that Christmas as the Christmas where we had the extras that others had," said Moran.

After Fantasy Farms got on board, the event snowballed. Several businesses donated time, money, and other such necessities. Rona raised $5,800, Save-On-Foods, PriceSmart, and Coopers Foods supplied the food at cost, Lilydale supplied all the meat, the Fraser River Fishing Lodge in Agassiz donated its kitchen and staff, and one Fantasy Farms customer, a chef by trade, donated his skills by way of cooking up the massive feast.

As well, there were approximately 40 volunteers decorating the greenhouse, wrapping gifts, cooking food, serving food.

"We had so many people wanting to volunteer, we actually had to turn down volunteers," said Moran.

Families were selected by the Ann Davis Transition Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fraser Valley, as well as private submissions. Each family was asked to provide a wish list for Santa.

"It was so heartwarming to read what they were asking for," said Moran. "Mostly just the basics of what they needed: flour, cooking stuff, baking stuff. The kids asked for Lego and colouring books."

Every item that was asked for, was provided.

From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. 25 families, just shy of 100 people, were doted on. They were entertained, dined, given presents, and train rides around the outdoor Christmas village.

"We all have memories of something that was special in our life, that we can reflect back on at different times," said Moran. "This is something to remember."

For Fantasy Farms, this year's Christmas to Remember is just the beginning.

"We'll definitely be doing it again," said Moran. "It's very rewarding. It's nice to be able to do something like this."

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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