After spending the last handful of winters baking cookies and other holiday treats – hundreds upon hundreds of them – one thing has become clear to Cloverdale’s Prem family.
They need another freezer.
All those treats, after all, take up space.
Since she was eight years old, Jenna Prem, now a 13-year-old Grade 8 student at Clayton Heights Secondary – and her mom, Nicole, have spent hours in the kitchen, pumping out trays of Christmas cookies, Nanaimo bars, shortbread, jam tarts – Nicole’s grandmother’s recipe – and more, all for a good cause.
Each year, Nicole boxes up the treats and sells them to family, friends, neighbours and other supporters for $20 per box. She then takes the money raised and buys gifts for the children and families at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver.
Nicole’s interest in helping the hospice extends beyond Christmastime, too. Last year, for her birthday, she asked for donations in lieu of gifts, and raised $500.
The annual project has grown each year, starting with 20 boxes the first Christmas, before filling 30 the next. Last year, 55 trays were sold, raising $1,300 for Canuck Place children and their families, many of which have to make massive sacrifices – often quitting jobs and moving from their hometowns – in order to be with their children at the hospice.
“It’s grown a whole lot since the first time. Last year, we made 600 Nanaimo bars, and 400 tarts, plus hundreds of cookies,” explained Jenna, adding that all the baking usually takes three solid weekends in the kitchen, plus a few evenings after that.
As her project has grown, friends and family members have volunteered to help. Last year, her grandmother – who lives in Vernon – baked fudge, packed it into tins and mailed it to Jenna so she could include it in her treat trays. A neighbour has also pitched in and helped bake some treats, too.
The business community has also stepped up, Nicole noted, helping stretch the baking budget further.
All of their ingredients are purchased with gift cards donated by a handful of local grocery stores, and even the tins the goodies are packed in are donated annually from a nearby dollar store.
Nicole’s hard work – and giving spirit – have not gone unnoticed by those at Canuck Place, either.
Each year, she receives a hand-written thank-you card, and was even given the chance, through the hospice, to attend National Philanthropy Day in Vancouver on Nov. 14, where she met Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children and Me to We campaigns.
As well, she was recently named a CKNW Game Changer – she was nominated by a neighbour as well as her Grade 7 teacher.
But while the recognition is nice, it’s not what drives Jenna’s charitable endeavours.
“It’s just really nice to be able to help,” she said.