Christ­mas wish­ing

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Christ­mas is com­ing and it’s time to make your ‘presents’ felt.

That’s the mes­sage from Shona Pirie, KMART Wish­ing Tree cham­pion and co-or­di­na­tor for this year’s an­nual toy ap­peal.

The an­nual gift-giv­ing tree with the Sal­va­tion Army opened for busi­ness to­day, with mem­bers of the Sal­va­tion Army Band and Christ­mas cake along with gift seed­ing con­tri­bu­tions from pupils at Col­lege Street Nor­mal School.

Pirie was hop­ing this year for a big gift bo­nanza to re­store Palmer­ston North to ‘‘top of the tree’’.

For many years, the city’s Wish­ing Tree has been No.1 for gen­eros­ity in the coun­try. Last year, city folk con­trib­uted 4600 gifts, but that was out­done by Auck­land’s Hen­der­son store.

Com­ing sec­ond has only hap­pened once be­fore in the past 10 years when Ric­car­ton re­sponded after the 2011 Christchurch earth­quakes. Pirie wants Palmer­ston North to re­claim the ‘Best Giv­ing’ ti­tle.

‘‘I’m think­ing re­ally big - like set­ting a tar­get of 7000 gifts this year.’’

The largest lo­cal to­tal was set in 2013 when the ap­peal brought in 6649 gifts.

She’s plan­ning on vis­it­ing lo­cal busi­nesses and get­ting out to schools in the next few weeks.

‘‘I’ll be ex­plain­ing what the Wish­ing Tree is all about, help­ing them un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the ap­peal, and en­cour­ag­ing them to take part.’’

New Zealand’s largest and long­est run­ning Christ­mas gift ap­peal, the trees have been con­tribut­ing to Christ­mas cheer since 1993. Last year, the Sal­lies col­lected more than 44,000 gifts for na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion to New Zealan­ders in need.

‘‘We’re par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in gifts for boys aged be­tween 7 and 13, and also gifts for mum and dad, be­cause it is about fam­i­lies.’’

Palmer­ston North Sal­va­tion Army Corps Cap­tain Ste­wart Lee said while Christ­mas was about peo­ple, it could be hard for chil­dren. es­pe­cially when their friends were get­ting gifts. But it was also hard on par­ents who found them­selves un­able to pro­vide presents.

‘‘To know that their chil­dren won’t miss out and to know that some­one thought of them is a big thing for peo­ple. It’s not un­com­mon for peo­ple to be in tears when they re­ceive the gifts peo­ple do­nate.’’

Any­one can par­tic­i­pate by ei­ther giv­ing a gift in store, mak­ing a cash con­tri­bu­tion, or do­nat­ing on­line.

PHOTO: DAVID UNWIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

KMart Wish­ing Tree team Tracey Monk, Shona Pirie, Liam Daw­son, Sean Pirie and Teina Epa­para.

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