Adopt-A-Family Volunteer Team brings a spark of shining light!

The Adopt-A-Family volunteer team brings a spark of shining light for many families in Guelph and Wellington during the holiday season. With a team of over 60 hard-working and dedicated volunteers, it’s no wonder they were awarded the Mary Carlin Award for Volunteerism at the Children’s Foundation Annual Gala in October 2019.

“The Adopt-A-Family Program matches donors with families in need to make Christmas shine a little brighter,” shares Karyn Kirkwood, Interim Executive Director and Program Director for the Adopt-A-Family program. “In 2018, with the support of our generous community, we provided Christmas gifts and grocery cards for 1,175 families, including 2,527 children and youth. The Adopt-A-Family team takes great pride in bringing joy not only to the families and youth, but also to the social and community workers who refer families, and to the donors who share in the magic of the Christmas spirit.”

The Adopt-A-Family program has worked hard for over 30 years to embody the Children’s Foundation mission to empower children and youth by connecting families with opportunities to build hope for lifelong change and break the cycle of poverty. “What makes this program unique,” says Brenda Walsh, Outreach & Administrative Coordinator, “is that the volunteers really run this program once we are on site at Santa’s Workshop. They feel a sense of ownership and give so much of their time and talents. Volunteers help with the interviewing and training of new volunteers, matching families with donors, as well as receiving donations and wrapping gifts.” The Adopt-A-Family Program was run primarily by volunteers for many years, and it has only been in recent years that there has been a dedicated full-time staff person to support the team.

The Adopt-A-Family team are proud to continue to meet the growing demand while maintaining the unique qualities of the program. “Initially, a handful of families were helped by a few caring volunteers,” says Karyn. “Now, we are helping around 1,200 families, which is why it takes an army of volunteer ‘elves’, as we like to call them.”  Brenda adds, “Many of the volunteers speak of the wonderful Christmases they had the privilege of enjoying with their families over the years, and they want all children to have a similar magical experience.”

In a recent interview with volunteers, they tell a story of friendship, inspiration and community.  They describe the program as a Win-Win-Win-Win. Donors win by providing families with a  memorable Christmas; social workers win by helping ensure families get the help they need; and the families win by receiving not only generous gifts from their ‘adoptive’ donors but also by receiving the gift of hope. Finally, the volunteers win, knowing that they are the glue that holds it all together and that through their tireless efforts as Adopt-A-Family elves, so many children will wake up Christmas morning and experience the magic of the season. It’s a wonderful Christmas for everyone involved!

Learn more about the Children’s Foundation and their programs including Adopt-A-Family at

Posted on December 1, 2019