An “Ali Baba’s cave” for Christmas

News 19 December, 2017
  • Photo Martin Alarie
    Volunteers (with deck red) and interveners encountered in the cave. From left to right : Gail Kott, Nathalie Gélinas, Elena Restrepo and Karene Greiss.

    Dominique Scali

    Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 01:00

    Tuesday, 19 December, 2017 01:00

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    Young people with such a low esteem of themselves that they don’t think that they could receive a gift at Christmas will have something under the tree thanks to an “Ali Baba’s cave” where thousands of toys are piled up for them.

    “I didn’t think I worth it “, has already said, a young man of 12 years, its speaker after having received a winter coat from the brand Tommy Hilfiger, says Nathalie Gélinas, head of the fugues and networks in three centres jeunesse de Montréal. “That night, this young man had slept with his coat “, she says.

    The Log was encountered in the “Cave of Ali Baba” of the Fondation du centre jeunesse de Montréal, where the stakeholders can come and pick up the gift of thirty dollars each for the young people of their units.

    Stakeholders come to also pick out gifts for children who live in group homes or who live in their family, but who are supervised by the Directorate of youth protection (DYP).

    In total, about 3,000 children receive gifts from the Cave this year.

    Photo Martin Alarie

    Stakeholders are able to shop for the gifts that they bring to their young thanks to the volunteers who ensure that everything is well categorized on the shelves.


    Christmas normal

    Most of these young people are caught in difficult family situations and the fact to have at least one gift to unwrap it may help to lessen the impression of a Christmas abnormal, ” says Karene Greiss, the speaker at the youth center of the CIUSS-of-Centre-South-Island-of-Montreal.

    Some see the friends with whom they are housed back in their family for Christmas and feel all the more alone in the world, says Ms. Greiss. The seizures are more frequent during this period.

    The tastes of these children are the same as those of the other. The boys love Legos, the girls of everything that has for theme The snow queen, illustrated by Sylvie Lacroix, a special education teacher met on-site.

    The teens, themselves, are fond of gift cards. As for the books, especially teenage girls, who like them, has noticed Ms. Lacroix.

    “Still, for many people, if asked what they really want at Christmas, they would respond : return to us,” said the president of the Foundation, Isabelle Levesque.

    Photo Martin Alarie

    Isabelle Levesque, Director


    Cry in front of the giraffes

    The Foundation collects other donations from the public to the year that are also used to make positive experiences for these young people. This is why children in a particular situation are entitled to a special gift that exceeds the initial budget. For example, a group of teenagers was able to go to the Safari Park thanks to a donation of tickets, an activity that has moved some to tears. “To see a teen about 17 years old super woman cry in front of the giraffes, it is remarkable,” says Karene Greiss.

    Full of gifts in his garage

    The Cave of Ali Baba saw the light of day thanks to a volunteer who devotes virtually all his time from November to January.

    “My garage is all the time full of gifts,” said Elena Restrepo, one of the pillars. And people who know me know that I talk all the time about it. “

    This yoga instructor and the mother of the family had been in the habit of volunteering with young people in the DPJ when she heard a speaker say that some of the children had never before this Christmas.

    In 2006, she began to solicit his friends to collect toys and other items. She was going to have to look for it-even from Repentigny to Vaudreuil and then go on to wear them to the stakeholders, ” she recalls.

    The campaign became truly organized in 2011, the year in which they amassed 500 gifts and new users. The Cave is now visited more than 3000 items entirely new, raised this year only.

    Pyramid network

    A good number of gifts from donors hyper motivated people who organize themselves in mini campaigns. This is the case of Robert Mainville, a broker and insurance that has “contaminated” his friends with his enthusiasm to the point of being at the head of a network of collection pyramid. His network has amassed no less than 177 gifts this year.

    Today, some donors make a transfer of money, and then it’s on to it-even buy gifts at Costco, for example. “I realized that for people to give, it needs to be simple,” she says.

    Photo courtesy

    Four letters to santa written by children of the DYP. The items barred are those that the speaker has already found in the ” cave “.

    Photo courtesy


    Photo courtesy


    Photo courtesy


    A subscription to the gym

    The Foundation has already received a letter of thanks from a young person who had received a subscription in a fitness centre, recalls Isabelle Levesque. “When I look back, I become emotional. He wrote : while I’m at the gym, I don’t do bullshit. And most importantly : I do not think that people could do that for me. “

    15 years later

    Well before that the Cave exists, Nathalie Gélinas remembers a 15 year old boy fascinated by the cars with remote. Spending a part of his pocket, she had managed to get the gift to the boy. “Today, he is 30 years old and I are still talking about it “, she says.

    Not too old for stuffed animals

    A boy of 12 or 13 years of age whose both parents have died by suicide had received a teddy bear, says Nathalie Gélinas. In front of the other young people, he responded by saying he was too old for this kind of gift. “But once lying down in the evening, he was clutching it hard, the teddy bear. Weeping tears. “

    The real show

    Stakeholders have already been able to offer tickets for a match of the Canadian to a 14 year old boy who no longer had any contact with his family, tells Isabelle Levesque. He was an avid hockey and P. K. Subban was his idol.

    “Until the day of the match, the stakeholders did not want to inform them of fear that it sabotages the moment,” she says.

    One commenter then wrote a word of gratitude to the Foundation for saying that to attend to the happiness of this boy was the most beautiful moment of his life. “The real show, it was to see this young happy, much more than the game. “