22 Years of Santa in the North
By Allison Strong
Traveling on a Rise Air flight instead of his usual sleigh, Santa visited the communities of Wollaston, Stony Rapids, Black Lake, and Fond Du Lac on December 15th & 16th, 2022.
During this magical time, Santa and his elves visited each school, making sure each of the 1380 children in pre-K to grade 12 received a gift bag that included a gift, oranges, candy canes, and a book to enjoy.
The Santa in the North Program is a long-standing annual tradition, with this being the 22nd year Santa has visited the region by plane. On board with Santa were his helpers who joined the visit to the Athabasca Region, and together, they made it a special time for the kids before the holidays.
Rise Air administered the program and the managed the logistics. “Santa in the North is a program which brings communities together. It’s been a tough time with the pandemic and we’re so glad that we could return to an in-person format,” says Dan Gold, Director, Marketing and Communications at Rise Air, who spearheaded the program this year. “From the funding partners and in-kind sponsors to the incredible team of Santa’s helpers, we cannot thank you enough for your kindness.”
Numerous sponsors came on board to help Santa make this special trip happen. Cameco, Orano, Northern Lights Community Development Corp, SSR Seabee Mining, Harold’s Family Foods, Snowbird Aviation Services, Imagine That Media YXE, Eagle Feather News, Real Canadian Superstore, Optek Solutions, and Hands-On Outreach & Development Centre all contributed to Santa’s efforts through financial and in-kind donations that helped with providing all the gift bags with assorted toys and treats for the children.
With sponsorship from Points Athabasca, Athabasca Basin Security, Flyer Electric, Team Drilling, Points North, Long Lake Insurance, and help with sorting from the staff at Optek Solutions, Athabasca Basin Development provided sponsorship and managed the process regarding the books, providing each student in the Athabasca Region from daycare to Grade 12 a book or graphic novel.
With over 150 different titles by Indigenous authors, over 95% of the 1380 books sent to the students were by Indigenous authors. “This was my first year involved in the program, and it was a wonderful experience to witness the excitement of the students in each grade, as they got to choose from the variety of books that incorporated the Indigenous culture,” says Allison Strong, Marketing and Communications Intern at Athabasca Basin Development. “I am happy to see the growing number of books written by Indigenous authors and the unique ways the Indigenous culture adds to their stories. This lets the students see themselves as the main character in these books.”
“It’s important to include books by Indigenous authors,” said Ben Borne from Symmetry PR, who played Santa on the flight. “These kids need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read to know their own stories, their culture, and to know they belong in the stories told around the world.”
Athabasca Basin Development has been involved in the program for 11 years, with the book portion of the program starting in 2018.