Every Christmas morning since they were very young, McKinley, Maia and Malea Penner gather around the computer with their parents, Duane and Trish, to decide which of MCC’s programs they want to give to.
The tradition started before the girls were born, 30 years ago with Duane’s parents, Ron and Ruth Penner who hail from Landmark, Manitoba.
“I think they wanted us to think about how we’re upper-middle class Canadians who have it really good. We need to think about others and give,” Duane said of his parents’ decision to start this Christmas tradition.Today, Duane and Trish encourage their children, now teenagers, to give where their hearts lead them.
“As a parent, we want to make sure that we are putting a focus on this. It creates conversation about the need and the opportunity we have to provide support. It helps us keep the focus of what Christmas should mean,” Trish said.
For the Penner family, giving isn’t an obligation, but something they feel joyful about doing.
McKinley, 17, has traditionally given to projects with an emphasis on supporting people living with disabilities because of her work and volunteer experience.
“I teach swimming lessons with SwimAbility Manitoba and I worked this summer at a camp for kids with disabilities,” she explained. “It’s exciting because we can pick the program and the place we want it to go to. It’s fun.”
Meanwhile, her younger sister Malea, 14, tends to give to projects which support education for women and girls.
“I’ve always thought about giving to these projects because a lot of the time girls are the ones who aren’t getting education,” she said.
The family also includes kit-making in their Christmas traditions. Last year, together with Duane’s parents, the Penners made 30 relief kits on Christmas Eve to send to internally displaced Syrians.
The Penners are looking forward to another year of giving to projects close to their hearts, while reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas together as a family.