Be a Santa To a Senior 2019

A Story from 2019: Engineering a Visit after 40 years

Each December, Home Instead sponsors the annual Be a Santa to a Senior program, providing a gift and a visit for seniors living in long term care. Each person has a story to share if we are willing to give the gift of our time to be in the moment and listen.  On the 10th anniversary of Be a Santa to a Senior in Saskatoon, this story shows how making a connection can make a difference.

It started with a radio which was thought to be broken. Angela and her friend approached St. Joseph's Care Home resident Don Griffith during December's Be a Santa to a Senior program. They had brought some small gifts for Don and were settling in for a visit when they learned Don's radio was not working.

The friend exclaimed, "Angela's an engineer, she'll fix it for you!"  After discovering the radio was simply unplugged, they began a long and lovely conversation about Don's career as a math and physics teacher in Middle Lake, Saskatchewan. Don was very talkative and although he had trouble getting words out, he was a wonderful conversationalist.  He spoke with pride about the achievements of one of his students named Janice who aced three math and physics tests. Angela wasn't sure if they were finals or provincial exams, but Don was very keen to tell her that Janice got 100% on all three tests. Don also mentioned that Janice had a sister named Edith, who teaches math and science in Saskatoon. Angela told Don he must have been a good influence on them.

Angela summed up the conversation and described what happened next:

We had more pleasantries before we had to leave and go to our next visit. When I was going to bed that night, I remembered Don's stories and how he had such a good memory for these girls. So, in a fit of craziness, I googled "Janice Edith Dyck Saskatoon". Up popped an obituary of a woman with the last name Dyck, from Middle Lake, who had 4 daughters, two of which were named Janice & Edith. Now I had their married names... so of course I searched for them on Facebook and found Janice but no Edith. Janice's profile was very limited; I wasn't sure it was her. I decided to go to bed and look more in the morning.

My husband suggested looking on LinkedIn. There I found Janice who was an engineer! I called the company's number and asked for Janice. The phone went to her answering machine. Darn it. Seconds later I got a call and the person said, "Hi, this is Janice, were you trying to call me?"

Janice was overwhelmed and so happy that Mr. Griffith remembered her now over 40 years ago. She also had very fond memories of Mr. Griffith as a teacher and moving his young family to Middle Lake and that he definitely was a part of her choice to go into engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. She wanted to meet him and we made that happen. Janice also invited Edith to join us too! Although we went a little close to lunch time, we had a very nice visit. Don was speechless and very touched that we were all there. Janice said she will stop by and visit him again.

After their meeting, Janice shared her amazement that Don remembered her, her marks and her maiden name. "I found [Don's mental sharpness and recall] fascinating. It says something about the math and physics mind. In our family and friends there are so many who are living with Alzheimer's or other types of dementia. It was refreshing that, even though his physical body has aged, Don remembered so many details from so long ago and in the middle of his career." 

Reflecting on Don's encouragement at a key time in her life, Janice shared that being a nerdy kid in a small town high school was challenging; she had no idea what an engineer even did. She was even more surprised that Mr. Griffith had learned that she had become an engineer and worked in Alberta for 15 years before returning to Saskatchewan. Janice is a member of APEGS (Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan) and collaborates with the School of Engineering to see about introducing students to engineering before grade 11. A few years ago, another high school classmate of Janice's who teaches math and science in Saskatoon reached out for her support as a judge at the grade 4 Science Fair. This year, Janice and Angela will both be judges.

Mr. Griffith came to Middle Lake when Edith was in Gr. 12.  "He taught me Math and Physics that year and pushed me on my understanding of the concepts.  After I graduated High School I attended the U of S where I enrolled in elementary Education, and within the first semester realized that, not only did I want to become a teacher, but that I loved the challenge of the advanced math and sciences."

After the first year of Education, Edith changed to Secondary Education and graduated with a B. Ed., with distinction, with a Major in Mathematics and a Minor in Physics.

Edith went on to teach for 3.5 years in Alberta and then returned to Saskatchewan and continues to teach in the Sask. Valley School Division, which is now known as the Prairie Spirit School Division.  Edith has taught Math and Physics her entire career, and for the past 15 years has also successfully taught Advanced Placement Calculus AB to Gr. 12 students in Warman High School.  (Students are taught their first year University Differential Calculus and in May they challenge a University exam and receive credit for their first University Calculus class.  This credit is recognized internationally and can be used globally at any university that they decide to attend.)

"It was a pleasure to see Mr. Griffith again after so many years.  It was in his classes that he first sparked that interest, and passion that I now have for Math and Physics."

Don's son, Dan, lives in Lethbridge. When he heard this story, he was happy for his Dad and can imagine how much of a boost such a visit would give him.

Our thanks to Don for being passionate about teaching and celebrating the achievements of his students. We are so glad that Angela was able to track down Janice and that Janice and her sister, Edith, joined Angela for a visit with Don.

Few of us get a chance to go back and express appreciation for people who have influenced us or made a positive contribution to our lives nearly 40 years ago.  We are thankful that Janice and Edith had that opportunity when Angela listened, was inspired and took creative action.

  (Edith, Don and Janice)


For information on Be a Santa to a Senior 2020, follow us on Facebook or visit our website

2019 Wrap-Up

We just put a bow on this year's edition of Be a Santa To a Senior.

Looking back over our 10th year there's so much to be thankful for and so many people to thank for their contribution to this year's endeavor.

First, we are thankful for our office staff for managing our business in the midst of this incredible community project. It's a great comfort to Karen and me as we turn our attention to Be a Santa To a Senior.  Knowing that clients and caregivers are well taken care of by the rest of our team makes it all work.

We are thankful for the unwavering support of Canada Purple Shield who again this year gave $10,000 in the summer to help us plan and prepare for this year's Christmas program. We appreciate all the other corporate donors and individual donors who, in the end, helped us get very close to our $20,000 budget with donations totaling $19,125.

This year we were particularly aware of people who joined us to deliver gifts who had never done so before. They were invited by previous participants and so it was wonderful to see the program through their eyes, experiencing it for the first time. 

This email is from a first-time volunteer:


I just wanted to send a quick email. My sister and I volunteered for Be a Santa to a Senior for the first time this year - but this won't be our last year as we plan to sign up again!

First, I felt that this was such a smooth process - from signing up online, receiving your informative emails, and things running very smoothly on the day of. We also were able to spend some great quality time with two men at Central Haven. It was such a great afternoon!

Thank you for offering this volunteer opportunity, and for all the work you do! It was exactly what we were looking for this Christmas! And again, we're looking forward to next year! 

Merry Christmas!

Jill & Colleen Pankoski



Every year it amazes us the amount of caring people truly have within themselves.  How is it that 400 strangers can get together over 4 days and create such a meaningful and compassionate connection with the seniors in our city?  It just seems to happen naturally every year, just like it happens everyday with each of our caregivers!




Reflections after a week of visits:

  • Two different residents from Oliver lodge said, 'it can be very lonely in here'.  
  • One gentleman who was sleeping was so glad that he had woken up as he wouldn't have  wanted  to miss out on the visit.  
  • At Circle Drive we watched a gentleman come to tears because he was overjoyed but could no longer express himself in words due to a cognitive event.
  • Another woman at City Hospital touched all over my face and then held my face in her hands and just smiled.   I felt by being there, these people felt cared about and cared for.  

I think about all of the hard things that so many of them have come through in their lives to end up feeling alone.  The few minutes we all spent made a difference and our caregivers are making a difference every day.




One of the many 'stand out' moments was at Parkridge with James F.  James was sitting in his chair at a table by himself, in his own reality, watching the events taking place in the common area when my eyes were drawn towards him.  My heart felt heavy as I noticed no one was engaging with him, he was all alone.  As I approached the table with the two volunteers to provide the gift of time, James had his head down. 

I got down to his level, gentle took his hand in mine and said hello James, you look beautiful today.

He lifted his head with a huge smile, and as I gently talked to him, his face lit up.  The two volunteers placed the bag on the table but James did not seem interested in it. The two volunteers tried to engage James but he was not giving them any attention and they said to me, oh we get it, you only have eyes for her and they chuckled.

We did eventually get James to feel the soft warm blanket and the ladies were able to place it on his lap, but I am telling you, his facial expressions clearly read that he was over joyed that he got our full attention for an extended period of time, just one on one.

This was a moment that I will never forget.  On my drive back to the office and a few tissues later thought, this is why I come to work each day, to support each caregiver to be successful no matter what illness or conditions the client/clients live with.  What at a powerful impact our caregiver visits make each and everyday to the clients we are serving.   THANK YOU CAREGIVERS!



"Sheila" is in the Convalescent Unit at City Hospital after breaking her femur 6 weeks ago. She wanted to go home for Christmas but was advised it would be better if she stayed at the hospital to keep up her rehab and exercise routines. She said it took some time to accept that she will be on the unit for at least another 6 weeks. She is a lovely person with a supportive family who visit regularly. Even so she welcomed me and we swapped stories about our kids and her grand and great-grand kids. There was a warmth and an ease to our conversation. I'm thankful we could spend some time together. She was gracious, funny and shared honestly and openly about her situation and what she faces medically in the future.  I wish Sheila all the very best as she recovers from this injury and prepares for other medical interventions. 





MEDIA – for promoting the program and sharing beautiful stories 
CJWW – Carol and Drew
GLOBAL – Chris Carr and Ciara Yaschuk
CTV – Janella Hamilton

CBC - Trevor Bothorel



All 386 of you… WOOT WOOT!!
Canada Purple Shield      $10,000
ClearTech  $500
Ardel Steel Saskatoon  $250
Applied Technologies   $300
Hy-Tech Drilling  $200
Leland Kimpinski LLP $250
Mid-West Group and OK Tire Saskatoon $250
Loraas Disposal North  $500
Complete Technologies $300
ProActive Fitness $250
Canadian Western Bank $500
Blue Moose Media $500
SARC/ SARCAN Social Fund  $740
Safeway University Heights $100
SGI Injury and Rehab $200
Kendra Kerr  $150
Anonymous  $25
Melissa Kobylak  $100
Anonymous  $20
Robyn Kondratowicz  $50
Helen Ashmeade  $60
Vivian Klein  $30
Dr. Michael York  $1000
Debbie Larson $25
Anonymous  $10
Audrey Grainger  $50
Katlin Zarry  $50
Angela Jamieson  $50
Cheryl Jamieson $25
Anonymous  $20
Anonymous  $100
Neal G $100
Ali Meyer $50
Shari Howe  $25
Rita Quinlan $40
Terry Kimpinski $250
Sara Worth  $25
Liz Charyna  $20
Julianne Wedewer  $25
Janette Schwandt  $50
Freda Salikin $50
Anonymous $50
Kathy Richinski $25
Anonymous $25
Anonymous $250
Anonymous $25
Catherine Fowler $300
Kathy Boychuk $100
The Vetters $50
Mahala Kiss $20
Cailey McCulloch $30
Shelley McConnell-Harder $50
Shanna Bell $75
Donna Fitzgerald $50
Sharon McKen $25
Nicole Kipling $100
Olive Hargreaves $20
Anonymous $20
Anonymous $100
The Rent-It Store
Prestige Executive Transportation

Budget Truck Rental


Our hearts are full. Thanks once again to all who contributed their time or resources or both to help us reach nearly 900 residents in 12 venues. Let's do it all again next year!  Follow us on Facebook or reach out to our office to learn more about donations and volunteers for the 2020 edition of Be a Santa to a Senior.

Update #3

Delivery Week is coming up fast… we can’t wait!  The Christmas Cards are coming in from Elementary School Students from across Saskatoon. Here’s a sampling:

Thanks to the students from: St. Marguerite School, St. Luke School, Hugh Cairns, George Vanier and Silverspring!

Over 380 volunteers…. Some are helping us get ready next week by preparing gift bags. Thanks Val, Vivian, Rita, Marg and Judy!


$18,450 raised… thanks so much to all who signed up and donated. We appreciate Canada Purple Shield and their ongoing support of this program with a $10,000 donation this year.

Corporate and individual donations have enabled us to pull together an additional 150 gifts from our original goal of 700 – so now we’re up to 850!

Shout outs to:

*SARC/SARCAN Social Fund

* Allied Denture Clinic


*Ardel Steel

* Dr. Michael York

*Leland Kimpinski LLP

* Terry Kimpinski

* Mid-West Group and OK Tire Saskatoon

* Loraas Disposal North

* Complete Technologies

* Catherine Fowler

* SGI Injury and Rehab

* ProActive Fitness

* Canadian Western Bank

* Blue Moose Media

* Anonymous

** The complete list of donors will be included in our final wrap up.  Thanks to everyone who contributed!

The Workshop will be organized later this week as we get ready for the first wave of deliveries starting on Monday.

The first of 3 videos for delivery volunteers for this year has been posted on our Youtube Channel so you can share them with colleagues who are new to the program or use them as a refresher.

That’s a quick update for now. More to follow!

Update #2

Each week we are thankful for the volunteers who have joined us and for the individuals, families and companies that support Be a Santa to a Senior financially. We have some great news: Today, we are closing donations and volunteer registrations.

FUNDS RAISED: $16,770 with a few more donations pledged and on the way!  We are closing the Go Fund Me page for this year as we have sourced gifts within the funds raised thus far.


Thanks to these individuals and groups who have recently invested in our program:


  • Dr. Michael York
  • Brooke Rutherford
  • Mid-West Group and OK Tire Saskatoon
  • Terry Kimpinski
  • Leland Kimpinski LLP
  • Ardel Steel
  • Neal G
  • Anonymous (5)
  • ….and others!

VOLUNTEERS COMMITTED: 386   Thank you to all who have signed up – both new and returning!!

This is the earliest we have ever closed volunteer registration and we hope people won't be too disappointed if you had hoped to register this year.   We encourage you to pay a visit to a long-term care home in the coming weeks or in the new year.

Shopping is well under way and the gifts are getting organized.

The workshop is open, and two work parties are complete.

The first Work/Party happened this week, thanks to this energetic group for their time to prepare the first wave of gifts:

  • Shelley H
  • Wanda W
  • Kristi C
  • Shannon P
  • Shari H
  • Wendy B



                Shout out to K+S Potash who brought gifts to St. Ann’s Residence on Nov 29th. Some staff brought their young children along to spend the afternoon visiting with residents. Always a lovely experience!


                Thanks to Budget Truck Rental on 45th for their support, the Storage Mart for donating boxes and The Rent-It Store for donating the equipment we need to organize the gifts for the ten different locations we’ll be delivering to between December 16-19th.


Special thanks to Canada Purple Shield for their generous support over the years. Their $10,000 gift this year enabled us to launch the 2019 Be a Santa to a Senior program with confidence. 


Update #1

Hello Friends,

Here we go!

The 2019 edition of the Be a Santa to a Senior Community Program is officially underway:

- We thank Canada Purple Shield, a long-time program supporter, for their generous donation of $10,000 to kick start this year's fundraising efforts.


- Thanks to other corporate and private donors including:


    • Blue Moose Media
    • Canadian Western Bank
    • Loraas Disposal North
    • ProActive Fitness
    • SGI Injury and Rehab
    • Complete Technologies
    • Catherine Fowler
    • Kathy Boychuk
    • Nicole Kipling
    • Shanna Bell
    • Anonymous
    • and others…
    • Total raised to date…. $13,615!!

  • 218 volunteers have registered using Survey Monkey! 
  • We are reaching out to confirm your volunteer dates and times.
  • Please let us know if you are willing to be part of the TRUCK TEAM.   3 people are needed for every delivery to pack up gifts and hand out to volunteers.  Contact


Thanks to Chris Carr from Global News Morning for sharing our story this week:

A heartfelt "thank you" to folks who have been sharing our Facebook posts and encouraging family and friends to get involved.  We have heard some wonderful stories already about families, offices and groups who have decided to brighten Christmas for a senior living in long term care through Be a Santa to a Senior this year.  Remember, this year's goal:  700 gifts and visits involving 350 volunteers to 10 facilities in 4 days!   We are 68% of the way in donations and 60% of the way in volunteer registrations. 

Thank you Saskatoon for your incredible support of this program!


Are you ready for Be A Santa To A Senior 2019? 

Help make a difference in the lives of seniors this Christmas! Sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care®, Be a Santa to a Senior is a true community program, with generous support from Saskatoon businesses, nonprofit organizations, retailers, numerous volunteers and members of the community to provide companionship for seniors.

 "The Be a Santa to a Senior program is all about including seniors in the joy of the holiday season," says Greg Charyna, owner of the Saskatoon Home Instead Senior Care office. "A simple gift shows them they are a loved and vital member of our community, bringing holiday cheer to those who may have very few visitors this holiday season."

This year we aim to provide a personal visit and deliver more than 700 simple gifts to Long Term Care residents.  Currently we are raising funds for the gifts; in November Elementary school children make cards and we recruit and prepare volunteers; in December we coordinate visits to 10 care homes.

We have partnered with Canada Purple Shield to help with gift collection and distribution, as well as local Saskatoon schools to create cards and crafts to be included with seniors' gifts.

"Many of our community's seniors do not have the chance to celebrate the holidays surrounded by loved ones, and we know that there are many people in the community who want to reach out - together we can make a difference by providing gifts and companionship," says Greg Charyna, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Saskatoon. "Many seniors living in care homes have very few visitors. Our Santa initiative brings holiday cheer to those who need it most."

Thank you in advance for your financial and volunteer support; we ask for your ongoing involvement in Be A Santa to a Senior this year and into the future! 


  1. DONATE to the gift fund

Our goal is $20,000.

  1. Register to attend a delivery and offer the gift of your time to visit with a senior

Groups are welcome!

  • Families
  • Employees / Co-workers
  • Team, Bands, Choirs
  • Community Groups, Classes
  • Classrooms of Children (ONLY with one adult per child supervision - no exceptions)

Hundreds of volunteers are required to provide individual visits during gift delivery.  50 volunteers are needed each morning and afternoon.  Pick a date that works for you and your group.

  • Monday, Dec 16
    • Morning 10 – 12;   Afternoon 2 – 4pm
  • Tuesday, Dec 17 
    • Morning 10 – 12;   Afternoon 2 – 4pm
  • Wednesday, Dec 18 
    • Morning 10 – 12;   Afternoon 2 – 4pm
  • Thursday, Dec 19
    • Morning 10 – 12


  1. Follow us on Facebook!

We will keep in touch with updates on the program's progress along with tips and suggestions about ways to engage the seniors who are living with a variety of aging conditions.    

  1. Learn more about the creative and generous ways people have contributed to the Be a Santa to a Senior Program over the past 9 years. Visit our website at