Judy Denham knows first-hand that it doesn’t take much to make someone happy.
For the past three years, the Maple Ridge grandmother has spent countless hours creating works of art that she turns into hundreds of Christmas cards and gift boxes that she gives to patients at Ridge Meadows Hospital and residents of Baillie House.
She does it for two reasons.
One, she loves to make cards.
Denham began making them around 15 years ago and they began to gather around her house.
“I like the process. That’s what happens when you like the process of doing something is that they collect. So what do you do with them all?”
She would sell some to friends, but needed to find other ways to bring others joy with her cards.
Denham first thought about donating to Baillie House following a knee operation in October 2016. She asked to talk to someone from the hospital foundation about making a donation.
She had three to four boxes of accumulated items that she had made over the years. Denham, a seasoned crocheter, donated about a dozen baby blankets to the hospital’s maternity ward. She also gave around half a dozen afghans for suicidal teenagers in the psychiatric ward – an idea she got from talking to someone from the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation – as well as another dozen lap blankets, which were given to seniors who end up in transitional housing after they are released from the hospital.
As she started her post-surgery physiotherapy, Denham thought about how Christmas was approaching and how there are some residents in the long-term care facility who have no family or friends to spend the holidays with.
Denham decided she was going to make little triangular Christmas boxes with individually wrapped Lifesavers in them. She prepped all of the materials and brought it all into the physio department at the hospital, where a revolving team of 10 staff helped put the boxes together.
That’s when she thought, after spending so much time in the hospital herself that year – once in January, then in August and again in October – that anyone in the hospital over Christmas should receive a Christmas card.
Denham found out that there were around 150 beds at Ridge Meadows Hospital, so she donated 150 cards that were sitting in her house.
Little did she know that this simple act of kindness would snowball.
The Ridge Meadows Hospital Foundation next asked her to do place cards for the 300 guests who attend the annual gala, which she has now done for the past three years.
She has also been asked to do place cards for the Children’s Wish Foundation gala in June, an event that will have between 400 and 500 guests.
Denham continued making her Christmas favours for Baillie House and cards for the hospital patients, taking a break only last year for health reasons.
This year, though, she was back at it.
She made 160 green-and-red paper mitten holders with a Hershey’s nugget in each one for the residents of Baillie House.
Her friend Corinne Fransen donated chocolate only available in the U.S.
Again, Denham made 150 Christmas cards, with four different designs, for the hospital. That took her about three weeks to complete, working two to three hours each day.
Another friend, Judy White, spent an additional 15 hours helping her to assemble them.
Denham also donated 28 crocheted lap blankets for Smiles for Seniors, along with 80 additional Christmas cards.
So on Christmas day, each breakfast tray at the hospital will have one of Denham’s cards and each person at Baillie House will receive a chocolate gift.
“You don’t know what that person is going through that day. You don’t know that person sitting in the hospital, how down they are. A person in Baillie house, how alone they are. Somebody should be doing something to make that better,” said Denham, adding that when she sees people in need it breaks her heart.
Often what they need is basic, she said.
Sometimes it is that little thing that shows up unexpected that they didn’t pay for that can make all the difference in how a person feels.
Everything Denham donates is packaged properly so that people know they are receiving a new item intended for them.
Her cards are always signed and sealed with a sticker on the back.
However, she doesn’t sign her name.
Instead, the cards read: “Merry Christmas from Santa’s Elf!”