Adopt-an-Inmate program brings holiday cheer to Whitehorse Correctional Centre

The organizer behind a program that donated gifts to jail inmates says if people knew the joy it brings to the inmates, no one would hesitate to support the program. 

'We shouldn't forget anybody at Christmas' says organizer

'There's no other feeling like it,' says Val Royle, the organizer of Adopt-an-Inmate in Whitehorse. (George Maratos/CBC)

The organizer behind a program that brings gifts to inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre says if people knew the joy it brings the inmates, no one would hesitate to support it. 

"We shouldn't forget anybody at Christmas time," said Val Royle, who started the Adopt-an-Inmate program 10 years ago. "These are folks who had been forgotten." 

Every year, Royle collects donations from parishioners at Sacred Heart Cathedral to buy presents for the inmates.

This year, she's buying for 60 people. The gift bags include socks, chocolates, body wash, Cheezies and a handmade card. They are packed in brown bags decorated by children in Sunday school at the church. 

There's no other feeling like it."​​​​​​- Val Royle

Royle said about 200 people are involved in the program, from donating to shopping to dropping the gifts off at the correctional centre on Dec. 24, where staff inspect them. 

Although Royle doesn't get to personally deliver the gifts on Dec. 25, she usually visits the inmates a few days later. 

Val Royle says inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre keep the Christmas cards and decorated paper bags and tape them to their walls. (CBC)

"These guys, they don't just keep the cards, they actually keep the bag that's decorated by the kids. And, you know, some of the bags are beautiful and artistic and some are just crayon scribbles," Royle explained. "And [the inmates] keep them and they tape them to their walls."

Royle wishes everyone could see, first-hand, how grateful they are for their gifts. She said it's those interactions that keep her running the program. 

"There's no other feeling like it."

With files from George Maratos


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