A thank you card from Const. Geoff McKay for gifts sent to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)

A thank you card from Const. Geoff McKay for gifts sent to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)

Call for help in Nunavut reaches South Surrey

A retired RCMP officer’s quest for care packages spurred many to act

He may not have any direct connection to South Surrey, but a retired RCMP officer has inspired local residents to help in Nunavut nonetheless.

Susan Richards de Wit said she was moved to assemble care packages for a community in the northern territory after learning of a Facebook ask posted by Geoff McKay.

McKay – who retired from the St. Albert, Alta. detachment in 2008 with 25 years’ service under his belt – told people that he would be in Hall Beach, Nunavut through March, as part of a swing shift where officers relieve each other for a month at a time to serve in the rural communities. (The RCMP Reserve program hires retired or former officers to fill temporary vacancies within the RCMP. Reservists are sworn in for three years at a time and can work as much or as little as they like. McKay was first sworn in as a reservist in May 2011.)

“His ask was for people to get a prepaid box at the post office and fill it with food, treats like chocolate and small toys for kids in the community which he would personally distribute,” de Wit told Peace Arch News.

In his Jan. 30 post – composed after receiving a box of goodies himself – McKay directed those eager to help to shipping boxes available at Canada Post for $20 each.

“I was hoping that my friends could help me make some kids day in my next community in March,” McKay writes. “Don’t want to say too much but a fellow here knocked on my door every evening looking for food. Some of them here don’t have too much.

“Why don’t you fill one up for a kid… boy or girl under 10,” he continues. “I will deliver it personally when I get there.”

The response blew McKay away, with boxes arriving from across Canada and as far away as New York City, according to revwords.com

McKay told PAN that “quite a few” boxes came from the Lower Mainland – “way more than I ever expected.”

“It was a good story,” he said.

Noting he spent between seven and eight months in different northern communities last year, McKay described Hall Beach as “a pretty special place.”

“The community really appreciated the kindness that was in every box… about 300.”

De Wit – who, with her husband Bob and their daughter Amadea, launched a Special Olympics Sport Start program in South Surrey in 2013 – said she first heard of the effort from a friend in Anmore, then confirmed it through the on-duty officer at the Hall Beach detachment.

In early March, she mailed off two boxes full of items including canned food, chocolate and small toys. A pair of shoes, new socks and small food items were donated to the cache by Special Olympics athlete Shaylyn Allen, de Wit added.

Allen described responding to McKay’s request as “so much fun!”

“I like to make new friends and be of service when I can,” she said in a statement provided to PAN.

Last week, she received a thank-you card from McKay, along with photos of the recipients.

She said it’s “just great to see this officer doing such good work and using Facebook to spread a bit of joy in communities that might otherwise be forgotten.”

“I think we all want to help children and families and he gives us an opportunity to do just that! The RCMP work tirelessly and this is just an extra act of kindness on his part.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
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Shaylyn Allen packs up donations for delivery to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)

Shaylyn Allen packs up donations for delivery to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)

Shaylyn Allen packs up donations for delivery to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)

Shaylyn Allen packs up donations for delivery to Nunavut. (Contributed photo)