Ranch brings early Christmas for low-income Edmonton families

More than 650 Edmonton children attended the Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch of Northern Alberta Christmas party. Children under the age of 16 received presents and warm winter clothing.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch hosted a Christmas party for more than 650 children from low-income families

Emily Paquette, almost three, was all smiles after opening a present at the Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch Christmas party on Saturday. (Art Raham/CBC)

Emily Paquette peeled back the shiny silver and green paper, revealing a Whiz-Around Amy car playset. 

The three-year-old held the box up and carefully analyzed the plastic pink cars arranged behind the cellophane screen. A smaller accessory caught her eye.

"There's a teddy bear," she shrieked, an ear-to-ear smile stretching across her face. 

Paquette was one of more than 650 Edmonton children at the ninth annual Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch Christmas party on Saturday. 

Families got free food, drinks, warm winter clothing and presents at the Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch Christmas party on Saturday. (Art Raham/CBC)

The non-profit hosts the event for low-income families every year at its sprawling ranch on the northeast edge of the city.

Children under the age of 16 receive presents and warm winter clothing. 

Parents who attended the party said it alleviates some of the financial pressure associated with the season.

Sagara Wijesooriya, a father of four, said he felt lucky that his family has been able to go for the past four years. 

"It's so helpful," Wiijesooriya said. "All of my kids get gifts. They're so happy."

Program manager Katie Pierard said many of the families have come to rely on the event. 

Katie Pierard is a program manager with Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch. (Art Raham/CBC)

"This might be their only gift that they're receiving this year," Pierard said. 

Some of the families bring the presents homeso that there's something under their tree for the children. 

The Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch will be holding a similar celebration near Calgary next weekend.