For many in Calgary, Christmas can be an especially lonely time.
Returning for the 32nd year, the Bannerman family Christmas dinner once again lit up faces and buoyed spirits — a fitting legacy for those who inspired the lasting tradition.
“The meal is wonderful and everything, but it’s all about the children,” said organizer Matthew Bannerman.
“They get gifts especially for them — what we really try to do is not give them ‘dollar store’ presents, we give them really good presents — and another couple of presents on top of that.”
The dinner was the Bannerman family’s attempt to turn tragedy into hope for the community.
“Both my uncles were killed in a car crash 33 years ago, and my grandfather’s sister lost her son,” he said.
“It just continued on, then me and my wife lost our daughter a couple of years ago, so that just spurned this on for us.”
Provided by corporate sponsors such as Fluor Canada and Home Depot, as well as fellow outreach organizations like the Mustard Seed and Inn from the Cold, plus scores of private donors, many beaming faces were seen exiting the event Friday clutching pricey and fun toys and gifts.
This is the second year the dinner has taken over Ogden’s Victory Outreach Centre, after three decades at a variety of venues, including 17 years at the Mustard Seed. Bannerman said turnout was brisk this year — far more than previous years.
“By the end of the day, we’d booked for 350 people,” he said
“This year we filled up right away — we’ve had to turn people down for the past week and a half, we easily could have had 150 - 200 people in here today.”
While needy families do indeed benefit from the dinner, Bannerman said the event is more about sharing Christmas with others.
“A lot of these things are viewed as for people with low incomes, but it really caters to a lot of people of a lot of income levels,” he said.
“People want to be with other people on Christmas, we need to escape our own thoughts and our own lives sometimes, so it’s really nice to be around people.”
On Twitter: @SUNBryanPass