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Donors help make the holiday special for Alaska Native families

Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 6:48 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Native Heritage Center gave many families one less thing to worry about heading into Christmas as it transformed into a winter wonderland over the weekend where children shopped for free presents.

“We know these past couple of years have been really challenging, not only for our youth, but also — as a parent — for parents, so I can completely relate, and so to be able to just spread even the tiniest bit of joy has been such a blessing,” Heritage Center President and CEO Emily Edenshaw said.

More than 300 families took advantage of the over 3,000 toys and other gifts available.

“It gives my kids an extra little something extra for Christmas,” Alice Bushey said.

She also admitted this holiday is the most challenging for the family.

“I was recently diagnosed with (breast) cancer, so this gives my kids a little extra something to remember, make it a little extra special,” Bushey said through tears.

The toy giveaway is the result of a new partnership between the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Carlile Transportation, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Ryder Transportation, Global Citizen USA and Tote Maritime Alaska.

“As a parent myself with kids that live in Alaska, it’s so wonderful to see kids coming in, their eyes lighting up with all the new toys, and for me it’s personally special,” Tote Maritime Alaska President Alex Hofeling said.

Saturday’s distribution ended after 45 minutes after organizers said the demand for presents exceeded their supply and expectations.

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