By Mike Riley
The Ontario EarlyON learning centres of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County put on a festive outdoor event called Jingle Bells singalong and giveaway in Wilberforce on Dec. 21 at the library.
Held 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., the event featured carols and take home packages for participants.
Julie Bosker, the early childhood coordinator with OEYC (Ontario Early Years Centre) told the Haliburton Echo on Dec. 14 that they thought it would be nice to do some sort of in-person curbside giveaway during the last week of Christmas.
“We wanted to reach various communities within Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes where our EarlyON centres provides services to families. It also helps us promote the reopening of some of our programs, such as at the library and Lloyd Watson [Memorial] Centre in Wilberforce, which we are planning for January. Besides giving a packet of holiday materials and treats to the children, we thought a festive singalong would be fun. From that, the idea of purchasing enough bells for the children to use at the singalong and then take home with them was born,” she says.
Bosker says that they ordered the bells for the children a couple of months ago, to ensure they arrived on time with the delivery and supply issues that have arisen due to COVID-19. The bells were procured from Scholars’ Choice, and she says that Scholars’ Choice also donated glue sticks for all the packages to be used with the other art supplies within the gift packs. A jingle bell committee was established and staff brainstormed ideas about what to put into the packets and who would take on various tasks. Since they are working from different offices and communities, Bosker says it has taken coordination, planning and teamwork.
Similar events were also held in 10 other locations throughout Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22. Bosker said that the response was amazing and she looked forward to seeing everyone there on those dates. The small but talented and determined OEYC staff worked as a team to pull everything together. Teams of two visited 11 communities from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22.
Bosker said each team came up with their own list of songs such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Frosty the Snowman, We Wish you a Merry Christmas, and other favourites. They also took requests.
“We don’t have to stick to holiday tunes either. Children often request their favourites like Sleeping Bunnies and If You’re Happy and You Know It. We are open to families sharing songs from other celebrations too,” she says.
On the day of the Jingle Bells singalong and giveaway on Dec. 21, the weather was cold but sunny and clear. Bosker and Debra Duncan, a program facilitator with EarlyON were there to welcome the kids and their families that came out for the festivities. Overall, a few families came by with their children but they were under the 25-person limit allowed by the current COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to singing, the children also got an activity pack with hot chocolate, a cookie and some crafts for them to play with at home. Bosker and Duncan also handed out some gala bags that had been donated in the fall, which contained more children’s items, an information booklet and a Foodland gift card for the parents.
In the new year, Bosker says they are hoping to be at the library and at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Centre on alternating weeks in Wilberforce to have Circle Time and Active Play events through the months of January and February if the COVID-19 restrictions allow.
“We’re just hanging up some flyers to promote the program. We’d done them for years but with the pandemic we stopped. So, we’re happy to get it going again, fingers crossed that we’re allowed to do it in person in the new year,” she says.
Jane Underwood’s grandson Rhys Wood has been going to these EarlyON programs for a year and a half, according to Underwood, and he’s always enjoyed it.
“It’s great for all the kids around, especially now that it’s so restrictive. Most of the kids I know that come out are pretty shy in their own way, but when they come out to these events, they really blossom. It’s wonderful,” she says.
As the last notes were sung, the gift bags were handed out to the families, and they began to depart, Duncan says that she thought that day’s singalong went really well.
“These events really help families to connect and gives some of the younger kids especially, some normalcy,” she says. “It’s nice to spread the word and let families know that things can still be enjoyable, even with the times that we’re having right now [with COVID-19].”