Virtual at-home, PD day Christmas party a gift for kids

·3 min read

For the last three years, members of the Lighthouse Fellowship Baptist church have hosted professional development day events geared towards children in junior kindergarten through Grade 4.

Restrictions in place because of the pandemic presented committee members Laura Connell, Vanje Watson, Jessica Kelly, Hannah Coolidge and Pastor Gordon with the challenge of how to provide a fun and meaningful experience for children while maintaining everyone’s safety.

“We thought, we do Zoom church services, so why not do a Zoom PD day?” said Connell, who has been at the helm of the project.

The result of their planning and efforts came together on Nov. 27, when 98 children, who had all pre-registered for the party, enjoyed a free, entertaining and engaging morning of activities, crafts, story time and games, from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

The committee arranged for each child who pre-registered for the party to pick up a gift and party bag - drive-through style to prevent close contact -filled with activities including a nativity story book, activities, crafts, games and an advent book. The activities were thoughtful and promoted kindness and charity. Connell tells of one activity that encouraged children to be aware of how good life is, and use a checklist of how many good things they enjoy, and donate a nickel or dime for each item checked. The money could then be used as a donation to a favourite charity.

“We are so very blessed,” said Connell. “We have so much.”

The bags even included a Christmas DVD, popcorn, hot chocolate and candy cane, to be enjoyed with family members after the party.

Connell worked behind the scenes, purchasing items and coordinating registrations. When she reached out to the church congregation for support, she found everyone was on board and wanted to do their part.

“(We have) a whole crew that volunteered and a bigger group that donated,” said Connell. “There were many, many people involved.”

The party was set up Zoom-style, but the participating children were seen only by the camera man, John Reeve, to protect the privacy of the children. Reeve, who owns Reeve Technologies, volunteered his expertise and time to facilitate the meeting.

At 10 a.m., the programming began, and for the next 90 minutes, under the lead of Watson, Connell and Kelly, children were invited to explore the items in their gift bags, make puppets, play bingo, take part in a scavenger hunt and win prizes.

Watson, who brought her own two girls with her to take part while she was on stage, brought lots of energy and positivity to the presentation. She spoke to Zoom attendees as though they were all in the same room.

“I love working with kids and I love sharing the real meaning of Christmas,” said Watson. “We felt this was a great opportunity to build hope in families and the community. It’s been hard times and Jesus is our hope.”

While organizing the event meant a lot of work, Connell was happy to commit the time to share holiday joy with the community.

“We are doing this for the community kids, because we want to share the true meaning of Christmas,” said Connell. “Jesus being born as our Saviour is the reason we celebrate Christmas.”

Connell said that depending on the restrictions associated with the pandemic, they will likely continue to hold future professional development day camps. She and her colleagues are passionate about sharing their faith and supporting the community.

Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent