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Lillooet Lake Toy Drive exceeds organizer's expectations

Lil'wat Christmas Bureau benefits from outpouring of community generosity



By Cindy Filipenko

Dozens of local kids had a happier Christmas because of one woman’s vision.

The 2 nd Annual Lillooet Lake Toy Drive undertaken by ambulance attendant Carrie Turchinetz was a resounding success. The 28-year-old paramedic says the event’s success is a shared achievement.

"I am just so proud of my community," said Turchinetz. "People really came together and made it work."

Making it work meant that 69 children, from infants to 19-year-old youth, residing at the five First Nations communities at the end of Lillooet Lake received Christmas packages.

However, getting the toys to their intended recipients was substantially more difficult than last year. An ice storm the day before delivery made the forestry road connecting the communities to Mount Currie extremely hazardous.

"The roads were ice this year. It wasn’t so good. We had the 4x4 ambulance in four-wheel drive for the whole trip. We had some pretty scary, sliding moments for sure," said Turchinetz of the more than seven-hour trip.

An outpouring of last minute generosity resulted in the toy drive receiving more gifts than necessary.

Unbeknownst to Turchinetz, the Lil’wat Christmas Bureau, which assists the First Nations residents of Mount Currie, had received a number of last-minute requests for assistance. A mutual friend of Turchinetz’s and Lil’wat band administrator Sheldon Tetreault put in a couple of phone calls and the extra toys soon had a home.

"The toys definitely all went to where they were intended to go, to kids that might not have otherwise had a very nice Christmas.

"We put the backseats down in a Toyota Forerunner and it was literally packed from bottom to top."

Turchinetz was thrilled, not only by the number, but also by the quality of toys that people brought in.

"This year the community support we received was incredible. We got so many brand new toys. Barbie sets for girls. Rescue Heroes for boys. Even the used stuff looked in perfect shape.

"And I’d really like to thank the drugstore (Frontier Pharmacy). When I thought we might be short on items their manager gave two large, plastic bags full of new toys."

While the community certainly did their part, so did her fellow paramedics.

"Three days before we went down, everyone in the station pulled together and we started wrapping. We were easily wrapping presents five to six hours a day for three days."

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