Calgary family turns to community for help handcrafting 100 wooden reindeer for charity

Family project becomes annual fundraising tradition benefiting Inn From the Cold

By Krista Sylvester | December 9, 2021 |11:00 pm

The Williams family has been handcrafting wooden reindeer to raise money for Inn From the Cold. There are still 40 reindeer left as Christmas approaches.

Photo: Monique de St. Croix

Move over Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer, there’s some new reindeer in town — and they’re looking for some new homes. 

What started as a small family project four years ago has grown into so much more with community support propelling the Williams family’s dream into a network of goodwill. 

In the first year of the initiative, the Williams family patriarch Al handbuilt 11 wooden reindeer to sell to raise money for charity. The next year that number grew to 16, then last year 30. 

This year, the family had lofty goals, handcrafting 100 wooden reindeer with the help of a few community partners and local artists. They have 40 left to sell, with all money going towards Inn From the Cold. 

“We had a lot of requests last year, so many that we couldn’t fulfill all of the orders,” Williams says, adding they are about halfway to their goal of raising $10,000 to donate. 

“It’s quite basic and simple in many ways, but it has such a profound impact on the community and the people that it supports.” 

The Williams family

Many hands make light work 

Family matriarch Jo Williams says each reindeer has their own personality, comes uniquely hand-decorated, and each costs $130.  

The family has the remaining herd of reindeer in their garden for people to choose from. The 100 reindeer took about 80 hours to craft collectively. 

“We have had the good fortune of many neighbourhood volunteers supporting this cause in their own way by helping source materials, the big task of woodworking, assembly, and decorating,” she says. 

This year, a number of local artists have designed their own, including Maya Gohill, Rozzie Lee, Elena Bushan, and Joanne Godenir. Those ones sell for $250 each. 

It started as a family project for the youngest son’s school project, and it’s taken on a life of its own with the Williams family even making an appearance on the American Live with Ryan and Kelly Show last year. 

Now, they’re at the point where even the materials are donated. 

“There are no expenses now thanks to the help of the community. We’re able to give everything to Inn From the Cold, which is such a fantastic charity. We’re very happy to support them.”

Raising money for a great cause 

Inn from the Cold capital campaign manager Tim McGowan says the organization is thrilled to be the recipient of the wooden reindeer initiative. 

“It’s an idea that just builds community around itself,” he says, adding the idea has exploded since the family started it four years ago. 

“It shows a lot about the character of the family and also the character of the community. I think it’s a case of families taking care of families, as we’ve said in the past.” 

McGowan says the Williams family are “wonderful role models to the community.”

“It doesn’t matter how small something starts, if you continue to feed it and nurture it, it will grow into something beautiful. It’s truly amazing to think of how many hands have been involved in this project this year.” 

For the organization itself, the donations go a long way. 

“December’s our biggest fundraising month of the year, and we really do rely on the support of the entire community. We definitely couldn’t do it just on government support,” McGowan adds. 

How you can help 

There are still about 40 reindeer left up for grabs and you can follow the initiative on their Reindeer For a Reason Instagram account.  This is how you can donate.

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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