Since 1983 Santa has been able to rely on a very large group of helpers right here in Leduc and area to ensure that each child has a toy and a smile every Christmas. The Santa's Helpers Auction is celebrating its 30th year in Leduc and it is shaping up to be the best one yet.
It all began in 1983 with two couples who were great friends, Earl & Julie Logan and Duane & Sylvia Rowles. Earl and Duane volunteered to take part in a guest bartending night at a local lounge in Leduc called Coasters where they raised $25.00 for their efforts. The families decided to donate their proceeds to the Santa's Helpers Society who provides gifts and hampers to local families that, due to financial difficulties, would not otherwise be able to celebrate Christmas.
That first experience completely hooked the two couples and the next year they raised $75.00 to donate to Santa's Helpers. In 1985 Earl and Duane had the idea to run a small raffle and they managed to raise $480.00. After that there was no stopping them.
Feeling so strongly about being able to bring joy to local children at Christmastime, in 1986 Earl had the idea to create an auction that would donate all funds raised to the Santa's Helpers Society and lo and behold, the Santa's Helpers Auction was born.
The two couples went to local merchants asking for donation items for the auction and received a lot of support from area businesses with the feature item donated that year being a brand new BBQ. Earl, Julie, Duane and Sylvia raised $2,500.00 that first year and the concept grew exponentially every year after that with 1988 bringing in $10,000.00 and finally in 2012 raising the incredible amount of $35,840.25. All together, over the last 29 years the Santa's Helpers Auction has raised over $550,000.00 to bring Christmas to Leduc and area families in need.
With the auction rapidly expanding it eventually outgrew its original location at the now defunct Coasters Lounge and has moved several times over the years to larger and larger rooms including the Elks Hall, the Leduc Legion, and finally it's current location at the LRC.
As it picked up speed and grew each year the number of volunteers required to help with the auction grew as well, and some of the first helpers brought in were Earl and Julie's children. Daughter Sherry Beagle was a young adult when she began assisting her parents with the auction. "All five of us kids, myself, my brother Dean, and my sisters Bonnie, Laurie and Debbie have all pitched in to help every year. It really has become a family legacy because now all of our spouses also help with the auction and our kids were recruited as soon as they could walk!" she laughed.
" Every year as it got bigger and bigger mom and dad wondered 'Wow, can we keep this going?'" said Sherry, "But they loved every minute of it and just wanted to give back to their community, plus they had a lot of fun doing this."
Due to their efforts Earl and Julie were commonly known around town as Father and Mother Christmas. Recognizing the differences they had made in Leduc, in 1995 Earl & Julie and Duane & Sylvia were presented with the William F. Lede Citizens of the Year Award.
Sadly, Earl passed away in May of 2002 and Julie followed him just this last May. "We kids have been wracking our brains trying to think of a way to honour mom at the auction this year and I think we have come up with something she would really like." shared Sherry. "It is a game where we have a Christmas tree loaded with numbered papers and to play you have to donate $10.00 and then you pick a number off the tree which corresponds to a secret gift on a side table. All the gifts are valued between $10.00-100.00 so everyone is a winner, and we are going to call this game "A Merry Julie Christmas."
In keeping with the growth of the auction itself the items available to be won have kept pace as well. For example, this year's raffle prizes are pretty incredible with the first prize being a $2,000.00 gift card from Co-op Home Centre & Gas Bar, second prize is a $1,500.00 gift card from Ken's Furniture, and third prize is a $1,000.00 gift card from Leduc Goldsmiths. Raffle tickets are available at the Leduc Co-op, Ken's Furniture, Leduc Goldsmiths, Ruth's Deli, and Pat & Cec's Auto Repair, as well as at the auction itself.
" We are SO thankful to all the merchants of Leduc and area and without them the Santa's Helpers Auction would not be the success it is." stated Sherry. "All of our supporters make it a fabulous day for Leduc."
Many supporters have been lending a hand for literally decades to this great cause. "Ernie Wilkes has been donating his time and talents as our auctioneer since day one." commented Sherry. "He even gathers together a few more auctioneers every year and brings them along too!"
This year the 2013 Santa's Helpers Auction will be held in the indoor soccer pitch at the LRC on Saturday, December 7th, with viewing of the auction items at 10am and the auction starting at 11am. This event is open to all ages but it is also a licensed event with Hat Tricks Restaurant making a special menu available for attendees.
To get a jump on viewing some of the amazing items that have already been donated for this year's auction you can go to their website at www.santashelpersauction.ca and many of the items are already posted there with a photo attached. You can also Friend them on Facebook at "Santa's Helpers Auction – Leduc" or follow them on Twitter @SHauction.
Of course an auction can never have too many items to offer so if there are any individuals or businesses out there that would like to donate a new item to the Santa's Helpers Auction please contact Dean Logan at 780-986-4328, or Wenda and Jack Wilmot at 780-986-4417.
"Mom and dad didn't do this for the glory." said Sherry. "My parents did this because they wanted to do it. They saw it as a necessity in our community and they just went out and did it."
Now, with the passing of the torch onto the next generation Earl & Julie's and Duane & Sylvia's legacy will live on to pay it forward to further generations of children in our area, and after all, isn't that the true spirit of Christmas?