Championing kindness at Christmas time

TC Media Atlantic
Published on December 23, 2016

Joe Dobbin makes spreading joy at Christmas time a priority.

©Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

KENTVILLE, N.S. – A kind word, a hot meal or a shiny new toy can bring an unexpected amount of joy at Christmas.

While mid-winter holidays can brighten up the cold and dark time, they can bring stresses of time, money, grief and, for many, loneliness.

Here’s how some Atlantic Canadians tried to add a bit more kindness to the holiday seasons.


Students writing their letters to Santa.
Jonathan Parsons/TC Media

Grateful for more than gifts

When it came time Jackie Drodge, a Grade 3 in Musgravetown, N.L., to coach her students through writing to Santa, she decided to put a spin of gratitude on the task.

“Every year we get the same (thing) — ‘I want, I want, I want.’” Drodge told TC Media. “So, I thought, why don’t we try thanking Santa?”

With some brainstorming, the children came up with many things to thank the jolly old elf for.

Read what the kids came up with.

Lt. Sarah Braye of the Salvation Army in Truro was pleasantly shocked when a family donated 16 new bicycles and helmets for children in the church’s Christmas program.
Harry Sullivan/TC Media

Three anonymous angels put kids on wheels

The Salvation Army in Truro, N.S., is putting gifts and supplies under the trees of 108 families the church is sponsoring this year. As volunteers worked away at the job, a family of three dropped off a big contribution — 16 brand new children’s’ bicycles, complete with helmets.

“It’s amazing,” pastor Sarah Braye told TC Media. “And that’s what Christmas is all about for us. We want to give families hope at Christmas when they feel they have nothing. This is going to bring a lot of hope to a lot of kids.”

Read more about the donation.

Theresa Gallagher dedicates her time to rescuing, rehoming and sheltering stray cats in her home.
Carla Allen

A Christmas gift of care

Theresa Gallagher spends her energy and money rescuing cats in Yarmouth, N.S. Just before Christmas, she was caring for 17 animals and struggling with a huge vet bill.

When she walked in to the vet to discover a holiday surprise: an anonymous benefactor had paid off her last balance owing: $1,613.06.

“It still hasn’t sunk in … that someone did something that nice, not only for me but more for these animals,” Gallagher told TC Media.

Read more about Gallagher’s struggle to help animals in distress.

Joe Dobbin of St. Joseph’s loves the holidays, and passes on a little good cheer through letter writing.
Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

Letters bring joy

“When December comes, I’m like a child. I’m filled with excitement and wonder,” 78-year-old Joe Dobbin told TC Media earlier this month. “The snow will come, Christmas trees will be up, lights will be put around, you know, the Christmas cakes will be made.”

The St. Joseph’s, N.L., man has been spreading that cheery outlook by writing Christmas essays for 30 years to cheer friends, family, even acquaintances and strangers who are struggling.

Read more and watch a video about how Dobbin spreads joy.

The Capitol Pub in Middleton hosts a free Christmas dinner for anyone who wants to drop by between 1 and 4 p.m., and has packed boxes of gifts for three local families.
Lawrence Powell

Sharing the feast

What if you have nowhere to go for Christmas dinner? A number of communities have created free events for anyone who wants to eat turkey – or volunteer – with others on Dec. 25.

In Middleton, N.S., the owner of the local pub is gearing up to host his fifth, free Christmas meal.

John Bartlett told TC Media he’s not a big fan of the holiday.

“But I do love the fact that we are able to provide something -- because of all the support we have gotten from our customers over the years -- to those who may be in need or just alone during a stressful time of the year for some.”

Read about Bartlett’s efforts to share with his neighbours.

Connor Ross, at age five, had his Christmas dream come true when the Acadia community came together to help bring him a football helmet.

A lasting gift  

An act of kindness at Christmas can have a far-reaching impact. Twelve years ago, a five-year-old boy in the Annapolis Valley, N.S., asked Santa for a football helmet – just a few days before Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Connor Ross’ wish was granted through the a little community magic and now Janet Ross is publicly thanking the people who made the present possible.

“I cannot express in writing how incredible this was,” she wrote. “Not because I had a helmet in my hand for my son to solidify the Christmas magic we share through our children but because people cared, people shared, people loved and people showed kindness to others with emails, prayers, encouragement and action. “


Read her touching thank you essay.


That gift had an impact beyond good feelings: Connor Ross was chosen to play football for Team Canada this week.


Xavier Angus, 2, explores a Christmas display at a home in North Rustico after the town’s official Christmas tree lighting.
Ryan Ross/TC Media

Shining bright

One small Prince Edward Island community brightens up December for residents and visitors in a spectacular fashion, from November until after the holidays. North Rustico, P.E.I.’s James Gallant started the intense decorating trend 20 years ago and sets up every year in tribute to his son who died in a motor-vehicle accident – raising funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation.

See how the town joins in, lighting up winter nights.