At a time of year when plenty of other kids her age are concentrating on what they want for Christmas, Clayton’s Jenna Prem is baking up a storm.
With the money she raises by selling trays of goodies, she’ll be able to buy Christmas presents for kids she’s never even met.
For several years in a row she’s contacted local grocery stores for donations towards baking supplies, then headed into the family kitchen with her mom and turned it into an assembly line.
They pump out trays of Nanaimo bars, chocolate haystacks, shortbread, tiger butter, jam tarts and more, then sell the trays to family, friends and supporters to raise hundreds of dollars to buy presents for children at Canuck Place, and their parents.
The project’s grown to the point where she had 40 treat tray orders this year. The absolute limit, says her mom, Nicole.
It all started when Jenna was eight, and her parents asked her to find an organization she’d like to give to at Christmas time.
When Jenna heard about Canuck Place, she was immediately drawn to it.
“So we brainstormed ideas on how we could raise money,” recalls Nicole, “and we baked 20 trays of goodies and sold them for $20 each.”
Located in Vancouver, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice provides palliative and respite care for sick children from across B.C.
“Canuck Place is like a mansion. It’s just like a normal house,” says Jenna, now 11, explaining there’s a front desk in the reception area, and a little waiting room for visitors.
Jenna hasn’t gone upstairs – that’s where the bedrooms are. But she knows the hospice has a therapy room and a craft room.
“There’s a kitchen so families can come down and they have chefs make food for them.”
When it comes to gift requests from Canuck Place, Playdough is big with younger kids while teens like movie tickets and gift cards, says Jenna, who also buys toys and supplies for the craft room.
“It’s really fun to do,” she says. “I think about the kids a lot.”
Last year when they dropped off the gifts, Kade, another student from her school, Hillcrest Elementary, was there. They got to spend some time with his family.
He passed away earlier this year, but the memory has stuck with them.
“It reinforced how special it was to have things for the kids,” says Nicole, an educational assistant with School District 36.
“I think about it and I’ll cry because I’m a parent. [Jenna] thinks about how the gifts will light up these kids’ faces.”
Thinking of others who are less fortunate is something of a family tradition; Jenna’s younger sister Lauren collects bags of donations for Coats for Kids.
“I’ve always made [our daughters] aware of how lucky and blessed they are,” Nicole says. “There are so many underprivileged kids in our own community.”