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Wonderland concludes with generous gifts

On the first day of the 12 Days of Christmas event organized by the Kateri Memorial Foundation, Iohsennóntion Lahache won a $7,500 prize, donated by Mohawk Online.

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On the 12th day of Christmas, the Kateri Memorial Foundation (KMF) sent one lucky winner home with the Karonhiaráhstha’s Winter Wonderland grand prize of $10,000 in cash.

Inspired by the singalong carol 12 Days of Christmas, this year’s annual celebration concluded with a daily raffle that took place from December 25 until January 5.

Cash prizes, a dream vacation, gaming consoles, beauty salon gift cards, nutrition packages and handmade moccasins are all prizes won by lucky participants that had their ticket drawn.

Traditional planning for the event underwent major changes in its sixth edition as a result of the pandemic and its ensuing health measures. Events typically held inside Kateri Hall and faceto-face selling of raffle tickets are part of the Wonderland experience that organizers had to reimagine amid COVID.

Lois Montour, the executive director of KMF said that although Winter Wonderland and its first 12 Days of Christmas event were a success, it wasn’t without a few hurdles.

“We have had a lot of people cheering us on along the way and giving us a lot of support,” said Montour. “It really helped, especially since every day we had some different challenges.”

Less than ideal weather conditions, unpredictable Internet and donations taking place online as opposed to the usual face-to-face money handling, were all obstacles the organizers had to overcome. Fortunately, the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) opened its doors to Montour’s team so that they could continue to safely run the raffle event.

Montour explained that KMF decided to give away tickets (known as wishes) for the draw to specially selected community members.

“We gave a few (wishes) away to the community children that submitted Santa letters,” she said. “And we have over 200 staff members here at the (Kateri) hospital that were all gifted wishes for free as an appreciation for their dedication, their work and everything else they’ve been doing.”

Even after considering the number of tickets given for free, Montour said the number of tickets sold greatly exceeded her expectations.

“On the first day we started we already had 33,291 tickets sold,” she said. “So by the time we finished, it was 47,643.”

With wishes accounting for a dollar each, KMF is looking forward to donating a generous amount of the proceeds to the community. The exact amount raised will be confirmed after a board meeting set to take place on January 18.

“As soon as we get some good solid numbers, we will put out what we were able to fundraise and from that point announce how much we can give to the (Kateri) Food Basket,” Montour explained. “The rest of the fund gets put into a scholarship account.”

Montour added that the foundation’s mission continues to be to give back to the areas of health, hospital and education.

The executive director estimates that approximately 200 community members are currently using the services offered by the food basket. A growing number that she said can partially be explained by the loss of employment brought on by the pandemic.

As for the donation to the scholarship account, Montour said an increase in the number of applicants is motivating KMF to continue their contribution.

“We started where we usually got 10 or 12 applicants, and now, we’re more like 15 to 20 applicants,” said Montour optimistically. “They are growing and a lot of them are getting into higher education.”

Furthering this, Montour brought up Kahnawa’kehró:non Montana Diabo, who in a year will become the first born and raised veterinarian in the community.

“She was one of the first students that did get help to pay for her PhD and now she’s almost at the end,” said Montour about the 29-year-old studying at Ross University in St. Kitts.

Taking everything into consideration, Montour is proud of the celebration they were able to put together. Amid all the turmoil, KMF even discovered an event that they decided to incorporate as an annual tradition.

“We’re hoping that by next year we can have a tree lighting ceremony where perhaps we can have the streets closed off and have a whole event as part of the ceremony,” said Montour, adding that the ceremony would then become the event to launch the Winter Wonderland.

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