Friends, family & Fin at the 4th annual CFEC holiday dinner.
It’s hard to overlook the festive cheer in the air as the holidays draw closer. The Canucks have picked up on the holiday spirit and with very kind gestures from Aramark, the team’s food partner at General Motors Place, and the Canucks wives and significant others who helped spread the joy to over 200 families from the Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC) at the fourth annual CFEC Holiday Dinner on December 8th.
The Canucks Family Education Centre operates year-round to develop and implement effective methods of encouraging, enhancing, and educating family literacy to participants of all age groups and all walks of life through a wide variety of programs and courses. Many of the families who attend classes at CFEC’s main base located in Britannia Community Centre, or any of the other extended branches around the lower mainland, come from communities that are affected by social and economic challenges.
Executive Director of the Canucks for Kids Fund, and Director of Community Partnerships, Debbie Butt has volunteered at this dinner for multiple years and sees the significance of the event continue to grow year after year as a special holiday treat for the CFEC families and volunteers alike.
“What we know is that a mind needs to be fed in order to learn,” explains Butt. “This event is about caring for the community and what we can do as an organization and with our partnership with Aramark to give back to groups in need – especially to groups that live, work, and play in the same area as we work and play. Our literacy centre focuses on multi-generational learning as we bring together young children with their parents and grandparents to learn together – that’s why this holiday dinner is such a wonderful event for the entire family.”
Canucks for Kids Fund teamed up with Aramark Sports & Entertainment four years ago to begin this wonderful initiative that sees CFEC families treated to a beautiful evening that featured a delicious holiday meal – all generously donated by Aramark and prepared by Aramark chefs. General Manager of Aramark Sports and Entertainment at GM Place, Michael Cassidy, has helped foster an environment of comfort, luxury, warmth, and friendship each year and he enjoys every minute of it.
“Hosting an event like this isn’t something Aramark normally does [at GM Place] so this unique evening is something our staff looks forward to each year,” says Cassidy. “We throw our whole support team behind it to make sure it’s a wonderful evening for everyone. Due to economic challenges, many of these families are unable to enjoy the kind of traditional Christmas dinners that most of us are familiar with so we want to be able to give back and be there with a hearty holiday meal for these families.”
Located this year in the ‘Captains Club’ at General Motors Place, guests enjoyed a wide range of freshly prepared food, had their photos taken with Santa Fin, decorated their cheeks with festive face-painting, and were served dinner by numerous volunteers including many Canucks wives and significant others. Among the helpful hands were Lisa Hordichuk and Katie Bieksa, who realize the importance of a small gesture that could make a huge difference.
“Especially around the holidays it’s really nice to bring up people’s spirits and surround them with positive things and positive people. It’s great to see all the people that we’re serving food to and to see how happy they are to be in this environment with all their friends,” said Hordichuk.
“It’s incredibly significant and you can tell by how thankful everybody is. The kids seem really excited and for a lot of these people, this is their Christmas dinner. It’s so important to us as a family to try and give back. We know how lucky we are and it’s a great community to be a part of. It’s just a little bit of my time and it means so much to these people,” added Bieksa.
While the Canucks didn’t fair as well on the road that night, the crowd at GM Place on Tuesday were all smiles as the families took the time to soak in the atmosphere during the Christmas Dinner, which has become quite the topic of discussion throughout the year. Looking around the room it is difficult not to feel touched by the joy that the dinner has spread to the CFEC families, and it really puts life in perspective when you hear the stories being shared by many of the participants.
CFEC volunteer and literacy class participant, Roxanne Gray, emphasizes the effect of the Christmas dinner on many of the families.
“These families end up talking about the dinner for months to come – it means so much to them. On a whole, people end up feeling lifted in a way that they feel better about themselves to have the Canucks want them for dinner. They start to hold their heads up a little bit higher than normal. This dinner builds a stronger relationship not only with the Canucks and CFEC, but with the families as well.”
Story by Jessica Prasad.