July 12th, 2024

Gift collection again honours baby Annie’s memory

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 20, 2024.

Herald file photo - Bekah Olsen and Michelle Gallucci wheel in donations during last year's collection.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

To celebrate what would have only been Annie Olsen’s second birthday, family and friends, along with Lethbridge Family Services, are collecting items for the Angel Tree campaign that are suitable for a two-year-old child.

Today would have been little Annie’s second birthday, but on Oct. 6, 2022 she passed away in her sleep leaving behind her mom, dad and five siblings.

Last year her mom Bekah Olsen, along with family and friends, wanted to spread love to children that were as old as her daughter would have been, through what they named “The Annie Effect: Do Better, Be Better, Love Better.”

Olsen spoke to reporters Wednesday and said she is grateful and honoured to be able to help provide other families with items for their children in Annie’s memory.

“We aren’t able to have Annie here with us right now,” Olsen said. “We’re not able to shower her with gifts and love her and see her play with toys or blankets and we don’t get to change her diaper, but I know there are lots of families out there that can be blessed because of Annie.”

Olsen said they are collecting any items suitable for a two-year-old, such as toys, blankets, books, puzzles and clothing.

“I know that diapers size four, five and six are in great need right now.”

Anyone interested in donating items and who would like to take part in the birthday celebration, can join the Olsen family and friends at the Coulee Creek Park from 6-7:30 p.m. today at 465 Couleecreek Blvd. South, where they will be collecting donations. Donors can also drop off items at the Angel Tree office, 1107 2A avenue North, until Friday.

“The support and outpouring has been tremendous and we are very grateful. I’m able to see the domino effect of Annie; I see people with their Annie Effect shirts on campus where my kids go to school and it brings comfort and joy knowing that they are remembering her and the impact that she had on each of them.”

Olsen said she hopes they can continue to help other families and make the Annie Effect campaign bigger each year.

“Last year there was a great outpouring and this year we’ve already seen toys and gifts coming in. I have gifts coming in at my house and again tomorrow. I think there will be great items for sweet baby girls.”

She said she has around 15 items at home and was expecting five more on Wednesday.

“As Annie’s mom, since I’m not able to have her with me right now, it really brings some solace and comfort knowing that people are helping and giving and loving and supporting in honour of Annie for all of these families and these sweet baby girls that need it.”

Michelle Gallucci, director, advancement and communications with LFS, told media last year Annie Effect brought in hundreds of gifts and she is expecting just as many, if not more, this year.

“So far today we have about 50 gifts that were donated for Annie Effect and last year we received hundreds,” Gallucci said. “Bekah and her friends kept coming in with more and more gifts.”

She said they will be sharing the gifts with their newcomer families and whatever is left will be saved for the Angel Tree campaign.

“Last year we had 800 children who were zero to two years old that needed gift bundles and we ran out of gifts, so this helps a lot and we are eternally grateful to Bekah and her family for this campaign.”

Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can do so at the Angel Tree office. Gallucci said the money will be used for specific items families may need that are not received through the donations made through the Annie Effect.

“We can purchase any gifts on behalf of Annie’s birthday, so monetary donations will allow us to choose something unique that a family needs for their children.”

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