Couple builds giant Advent calendar filled with toys for Île-à-la-Crosse community

Brenda Morin grew up watching her mother be kind to children in her northern Saskatchewan community. 

Every morning, her mom would make bannock and kids would line up at morning recess for a snack. Every afternoon, her mom would have treats like candy apples and the kids would line up once again. 

Now, Morin is continuing her mother's legacy in her own way: this Christmas, Morin and her husband made a giant Advent calendar for their Île-à-la-Crosse community.

"Just to give back to the community, to see them smile and then enjoy what they're getting in their gifts," she said. "I have had positive feedback from the community — from the parents — they really enjoyed it."

She used milk crates decorated with wrapping paper for the cubby holes and decorated the structure with evergreen boughs and lights. 

Community members submitted names in advance and each day they draw a name — switching between boys and girls. More than 150 names were submitted.

"My grandson sits here at five o'clock every evening and pulls a name out of the hat," she said. 

The winners' names are posted on Facebook and the parents and children come over to her house to draw the present. She live streams the gift-giving on Facebook and she said she gets about 300 views each night. 

The retiree and grandma bought most of the presents herself. 

"Because it's Christmas and the kids deserve extra," she said. "I just thought 'Well, let's make it all for the kids.'"

Morin hopes her grandson will do the same when he's older. 

"I'm sure he'll carry on my tradition once I'm gone, hopefully," she said with a laugh. 

Some extra presents were donated from the community. Those extra presents will be drawn on Dec. 24 so even more kids get a present on Christmas Eve, she said. 

Brenda Lee/Facebook

Morin said it's "heartwarming" when she sees the children reach up to take their free present. 

"I'm happy to see these kids smiling."  

Her mother would have loved the project, she said. 

"She'd be happy to see the kids.... She was the grandmother of a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren; she would have enjoyed it."