Anyone who knew my dad, Gary Boittiaux, knew that he loved to give back to the community, and was always quick to help anyone who needed it. As a child, we grew up in the north end, because my father, wanted our family to grow up there. This was where he grew up, and he wanted that same sense of ‘community’ and ‘reality’ for his own children.
Every year , on July 1st (along with his brothers and sisters) he would host fireworks and a barbecue for his family…Starting in our backyard, it wasn’t long before it eventually turned into a fairly large event with free entertainment, and free hot dogs, drinks, ice cream etc for the neighborhood adults and kids alike…Moving first to the parking lot of the church next door to my childhood home, eventually outgrowing that, and moving into the RB Russell school lot. This was an event for those who could not afford to celebrate on there own, or could not travel down to Assiniboine Park or the Forks… Eventually the fireworks rivaled the ones put on by the other venues, and children from the north end and inner city gathered every year in anticipation, with smiles and laughter, and the crowds growing year after year. Unfortunately, when he passed on, so did this tradition… After the initial grief of his passing set in, through the years, I’ve often found myself wondering, what happened to all those kids that used to gather on July 1st? Had they still gone there waiting for the party that never happened again? How many years before they understood, that the party wouldn’t be happening anymore? Did they think we just stopped because? I’ve wondered how i could carry on a similar tradition in memory of my dad in giving to the community (not having a clue on how to light a firework)! So after some reflection in 2011, we began a new tradition in his memory.
December 23rd, 2011, along with a couple of family and friends, we wandered the north end and inner city by going out and giving toys, gloves,blankets, gift certificates and whatever we could get our hands on, to people who are less fortunate than i am in life, both financially and family/friend wise. We continue to do this every December. It is our mission to make someone smile. We knock on a doors of homes, and find the homeless. It was and will continue to be completely random. Some people have asked why I don’t just drop stuff off at a shelter, or go and help at a soup kitchen? While I think these resources are invaluable, and great causes, I want this to be a surprise. What kind of impact can we have on peoples lives, by surprising them with a random act of kindness?? If i give out a hundred small presents to have one child look back in their adult years, and reflect on the day a stranger walked up to them and gave them a present, ‘just cause’ and how it had given them a renewed hope in humanity, or positively effected their life… well, then a couple of hours in the cold will be worth it! And well, surprise, hope, and love for everyone around… isn’t that what Christmas and life should be about?
Since 2011, we’ve only gotten bigger and better! Each year with the assistance of an annual fundraiser we continue to surpass the previous year in gifts and smiles. Growing from approximately 800 gifts in 2011, with 2014 reaching 2,147!! Volunteers have also quickly multiplied from 8 elves that first year to 39 just this last year! Word of our cause continues to quickly spread. Everyone wants to help and contribute in some way. Various media outlets have now become interested in our cause airing it on the nightly news, newspapers and radio! We’ve also spread out to Mexico, Victoria BC, and we’ve even touched Australia!! The ripples of our effects continue to grow, reaching more and more people. This is what it is all about! Spreading the word and the love. We hope to see this trend to continue throughout the years!
So going forward, here is what i propose If you would like to join us in our crusade to make someone smile, or donate anything, or both, visit our ‘contact us link’ (don’t be shy!) and we’ll arrange something… if your unable to join us because you’re working, not in Winnipeg, or just plain old busy that day, it is all good! All we ask is, if you cant make it, do something randomly nice for someone who wouldn’t expect it… lets all pay it forward! Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you at the Tim Horton’s line…. offer the person sitting next to you on the bus a piece of gum… smile at a stranger and tell them to have a great day…let people into your lane as you’re driving, all day…. and think of my father, Gary Daniel Boittiaux as you do it… as well as anyone else you may have lost. Let’s honor them by being the best we can be during the holidays this year and every day of the year… let’s all make someone smile! Wherever you are whatever time it is, we can all make this happen! I also ask that while Christmas is a special time of the year, you continue to keep this movement going, in paying it forward and making this world a better place, for you, me, our children and everyone else that we care about. Lets make our loved ones proud.