Shuffling With Santa And Sally Ann In Abbotsford To Inject Some Merry Into Christmas

By December 3, 2014Christmas, Community News

ABBOTSFORD — By Gord Kurenoff. The last time I was here on running-related business, they almost needed the Jaws of Life to extract my calorie-friendly carcass from mascot Drip’sboiling body suit after partaking in a Run For Water school promotion.

PHOTO: Gord Kurenoff, Vancouver Sun
Santa dropped in early to the Sumas Way Running Room on Monday to show off the new medal that every finisher in the 5K Santa Shuffle and 1K Elf Walk will receive this Saturday in Abbotsford. Asked if he’s been training he said “Ho Ho Ho.”

So when Deb Lowell of the local Salvation Army inquired if yours truly would be interested in attending this Saturday’s eighth annual 5K Santa Shuffle fundraiser, I was waiting for “the catch” before accepting “the invite.”

Seems like they already had a Santa, elves and other costumed Christmas characters looked after, so to avoid being labelled a Scrooge or Grinch I agreed to do the shuffle — without last week’s Mo Miler Flash Gordo outfit! After all, they have cookies, hot chocolate and a souvenir medal at the Ellwood Park finish line so the extra motivation was there.

Decided to pay a visit Monday morning to the so-called City in the Country and had a good laugh at the Sumas Way Running Room as Santa was apologizing for arriving a bit early and Lowell was apologizing for running a bit late.

Santa had just visited candidate Paul Redekopp to congratulate him for a decent showing in the recent civic election, while Lowell was scrambling to launch the annual Kettle and Angel Drives, along with a zillion other important things the Sally Ann looks after in this active community of some 140,000.

Deb Lowell of the Abbotsford Salvation Army says her organization offers help ‘without any discrimination and with much love.’

Deb Lowell of the Abbotsford Salvation Army says her organization offers help ‘without any discrimination and with much love.’

Lowell, public relations director for the local Christian organization, has spent her entire adulthood trying to improve the lives of the less fortunate. She is looking forward to Saturday morning’s fun run/walk for a number of reasons.

“We had a 94-year-old man for the 1K Elf Walk last year, and that was inspiring. When you see the happy faces, the kids, the families, the costumes — it feels like Christmas and community.

“… And every step you take forward in this event helps us help somebody in our community. That’s pretty special,” says Lowell.

She’s expecting more than 300 “Dashers” to take part in the 10 a.m. 5K and 1K events, and points out there will be “great prizes,” orange slices, Releaf water, activity books for the kids and the presentation of the coveted Corporate Challenge Trophy produced by Santa’s workshop at PDS Metal Solutions.

For more information about the run, how to enter and when to pick up your race package, click HERE.

The signature Red Kettle will be at the event, so people can donate cash or cheques, or they can go online and sponsor runners or donate.

Just like every other Lower Mainland community, Abbotsford has seen the growth of its homeless population coupled with the lack of immediate services to help these people turn their lives around.

“Life is unpredictable and you can have some tough things thrown your way at any time. You can go from living large to needing our help in very little time,” says Lowell. “What is consistent is our help, thanks to the community helping us.”
That centre also has a shelter with 25 beds, and serves breakfast to more than 60 people a day and lunch to more than 200 people a day. They have an outreach team, a fulltime psychiatrist and one LPN on staff. They help people who suffer from such things as street feet, diabetes, stress, anxiety and depression. They look after the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the hungry, the lonely and the forgotten.She points out that in the recent teacher lockout, two families required some assistance from the Centre of Hope on Gladys Street to cope with the loss of income.

And Lowell says they are looked after “without any discrimination and with much love.”

It cost the local Salvation Army about $4.5-million a year to make all this and more work, so events such as the Santa Shuffle help make Christmas better for those who need it most.

For more on the Centre of Hope and Sally Ann programs, click HERE.

For the Abbotsford Santa Shuffle Facebook page, click HERE.

The coveted 2014 Santa Shuffle medal which every finisher will receive on Saturday in Abbotsford.

The coveted 2014 Santa Shuffle medal which every finisher will receive on Saturday in Abbotsford.

While this city has garnered some foul press for dumping chicken manure on a homeless camp, or for spending taxpayers’ money to subsidize the Calgary Flames’ American Hockey League team, or building a parking lot-free arena that was about 2,000 seats too many and $30 million too much — and very costly to operate and manage — it is a great community nonetheless.

It has an award-winning newspaper (Vikki Hopes  likes to downplay her jogging when she’s not reporting at The News) that promotes paying it forward in the community.

It has compassionate people and groups such as Michelle Watrin (Run for Water),Ken Herar (Cycling4Diversity), Rick Rake (Click Media Works), Mission Without Borders, MCC Relief, Crystal Gala Foundation, the food bank, Fraser Valley Child Development Society and just about every church and service club.

Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson and Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong are both runners, the former being involved in every charity event you can think of while serving as a popular councillor.

It has a quality airport, a neat Agrifair and rodeo, Multiculture Festival and a comical celebrity chef in Gordon Dez, who offers several cooking shows and lessons every year.
And the area is music-rich, too, withCarly Rae Jepsen (you might of heard her song Call Me Maybe!), Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard and Nickelback’s frontman Chad Kroegercalling this prime piece of pasture home.Of course, it’s also the new PGA golf factory with locals Adam Hadwin,Nick Taylor and James Lepp making the game look easier than it really is.

Santa tries on some new shoes at the Running Room on Monday in Abbotsford. He plans to take part in Saturday morning’s 5K Shuffle.

Santa tries on some new shoes at the Running Room on Monday in Abbotsford. He plans to take part in Saturday morning’s 5K Shuffle.

And, for what it’s worth, I met the most beautiful woman in this city 25 years ago, and have been with her ever since. So sorry for stealing your best asset, Abby — you still have her wonderful parents in your city!

About the only thing Abbotsford doesn’t have is a good track record for singing mayors. If you get elected and then get the urge to climb on a stage, it seems your days will be numbered! Just ask the velvet-tonedGeorge Peary and Bruce Banman. I warned you that silence is golden!

Finally, when you hear talk about the “White Elephant” this Saturday, for a change it won’t be pertaining to the beautiful, but controversial Abbotsford Centre.

Instead, it will be yours truly pounding the pavement and scenic Discovery Trail, hoping to help Lowell and the Salvation Army put the comfort and merry into Christmas for those who wouldn’t have it without their unselfish dedication. All kidding aside, they are the real angels of the season. And with your help they can keep the Miracle on Gladys Avenue going Beyond Tomorrow.

And please save a cookie for me at the finish. It might take a while. See you Saturday Abbotsford — and kudos for being Canada’s most charitable city, again!

Gotta run …

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