Military reservists, cadets make Christmas Cheer Board deliveries

Canadian Forces members and military vehicles took to the streets of Winnipeg Saturday, on a mission to bring Christmas cheer to families across the city.

Canadian Forces members deliver hampers in annual holiday tradition

Military reservists and cadets spent Saturday delivering hampers for the Christmas Cheer Board through their annual Exercise PARCEL PUSH drive. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Canadian Forces (CF) members and military vehicles took to the streets of Winnipeg Saturday, on a mission to bring Christmas cheer to families across the city.

Military reservists and cadets from 38 Combat Engineer Regiment, Fort Garry Horse and 1226 Fort Garry Horse Cadet Corps spent the morning delivering hampers for the Christmas Cheer Board, an annual holiday tradition dating back to 1984 for members the city's military.

Fort Garry Horse commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Koltun said the drive, called Exercise PARCEL PUSH, was started by a CF member after he learned the Winnipeg Cheer Board was founded just after the First World War.

"Its original purpose was to provide Christmas cheer for the widows and orphans of our fallen from World War I," explained Koltun, as parcels were being loaded at Lieutenant - Colonel Harcus Strachan VC MC Armoury.

Fort Garry Horse commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Koltun said members would deliver 500 hampers Saturday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"At that time, 34 years ago, the Christmas Cheer Board was looking for a lot of volunteers and a lot of help in assisting in getting the hampers delivered and he said it was a great opportunity.

 "The Cheer Board started by helping the military and now the military is helping support the Cheer Board."

'Absolutely huge for us'

In all, the members aimed to get 500 parcels delivered during the one-day push.

"We're busy, but with teamwork we can go a long way," said Private Nathan Gabriel, who was taking part in his second year of handing out parcels.

"People are very appreciative of us coming out and they enjoy their presents and the Christmas spirit."

Private Nathan Gabriel took part in his second Exercise PARCEL PUSH Saturday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

For the Cheer Board, which is working to get 18,000 hampers delivered to families by Dec. 24, the help is more than appreciated, said Susan Gill, donations officer with the not-for-profit.

"It's absolutely huge for us," she said.

"They get it done so fast and they actually go in areas of the city that some people might not be comfortable with, so they take that core area for us and just kind of overwhelm it with their their deliveries."

Gill said each hamper is filled everything needed for a Christmas dinner — potatoes, stuffing, gravy, a turkey and cranberry sauce — as well as staples like soups and pasta to help families through the holidays.

The Cheer Board is still looking for volunteers to help deliver hampers and donations of food and toys. Gill says the charity is also accepting cash donations through their website to help pay for the not-for-profit's expenses.

The hampers are filled with everything needed for a Christmas dinner as well as staples to help families through the holidays. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

With files from Alana Cole