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Grade 12 duo leads much-needed return of Pen High’s flagship Christmas fundraiser

Kailyn Beaudoin and Anna López are at the forefront of the Dec. 8 Toys for Tots fundraiser

Kailyn Beaudoin and Anna López knew they had the weight of Penticton Secondary’s historic fundraising efforts on their shoulders when they walked through the building’s doors in September.

Leading the school’s Toys for Tots holiday giveback is an initiative four years in the making for the Grade 12 students. After watching the now-retired teacher Sandra Richardson and former vice-principal Bo Boxall bring the community together every Christmas during their early high school years, they knew it would take a lot to ensure Penticton’s less fortunate get the support they need this holiday season.

And on Dec. 8, after months of coordinating live entertainment, collecting donations, and securing community partners, Beaudoin and López will lead the school’s efforts in raising thousands of toys for children across Penticton.

“When we all work together, we can make a difference,” said López.

In 2021, the school collected a total of 2,073 toys.

COVID-19 concerns one year ago forced the event go to outdoors. With the goal set on matching last year’s efforts, the fundraiser will return indoors next Thursday from 7 to 11 a.m. and feature appearances from the Penticton Vees, local firefighters, RCMP, a hot breakfast for those who choose to donate and a photo booth to cherish the holiday memories.

“We’re representing both the event and the school, so we want to make sure everything goes well but it’s nice to have so many people want to come and support it,” Beaudoin said.

The students are two of 90 Penticton Secondary leadership students responsible for organizing the event.

Beaudoin and López said they were tasked with assigning roles to dozens of their classmates to make the holiday dream a reality. They started out as volunteers in Grade 9, developing their passion for community giveback through leadership class.

Now years later, they’ve been given the reigns to the school’s flagship event.

“For decades the phenomenal leadership teachers, Sandra Richardson and Bo Boxall led this event,” said Jolene Broccolo, a teacher at Penticton Secondary, who also participated in the local fundraiser as a student 10 years ago. “It’s been (Beaudoin and López) driving this now and the amount of work they’ve done is incredibly…far beyond what anyone would expect from high school students.”

Beaudoin and López have embraced their leadership roles, making phone calls during spare periods to local businesses, inviting community partners to the event and even coordinating a donation drop-off meeting with Penticton mayor Julius Bloomfield and councillor Campbell Watt.

They also, however, are very much aware that it’s not an ordinary year. Inflation and the rising cost of living are making things difficult for many and the students haven’t looked past that during their campaign.

“This year, we’ve been trying to get more sponsorships around the community to make sure that even if we don’t get as many donations, people will still get what they need this holiday season,” Beaudoin said.

The students said they’ll be up before 5 a.m. on Dec. 8, in preparation for the event’s opening.

Anyone hoping to donate to the cause can drop off their items near the front door of Penticton Secondary. Donations will also be accepted at local grocery stores and at Canadian Tire.

READ MORE: Get Christmas cookies all for a great cause in Penticton