Sask. Summer Snack program organizer recognized as a Hometown Hero
For the past 10 years, Candace Gabriel has helped thousands of families every summer through the Summer Snack program.
"On a crazy busy day we can have 50 kids at one of our parks," said lead coordinator Candace Gabriel.
Most kids are often hungry. It's why Candace Gabriel decided to take part in the summer snack program. It's a need Gabriel understands first hand having kids of her own. The program helped her 14 years ago.
"Taking the pressure of one meal off of me was just amazing and it's what allowed me to stay in Saskatoon," said Gabriel.
The Summer Snack program was created 33 years ago when two school teachers came together to help kids during the summer months knowing most depended on the school lunch program.
When the program originally started, seeing 50 kids in a day was considered a busy day. Today, the program serves eight different parks with at least 50 kids at each park.
Gabriel's passion for giving back has been passed down to her daughter who now helps out as well.
"It's amazing to do something so meaningful and so big especially with my mom because my mom has always been my biggest supporter," said Aurora Gabriel
"She told me mom I want to give back. I want to help them out because they helped me out. It was such a proud mom moment," said Gabriel
In 2020, the program was able to feed more than 11,000 people in two months. This year the number rose to more than 13,000.
"It's complex, we don't limit our meals only to kids. You know there are adults who may come and partake. They usually always let the kids go first and they usually help with the clean up. Almost always they are polite and there's no arguing. There is a huge need," said Don Macdonald, president of the Saskatoon and District Labour Council.
For Gabriel, it's the kids' smiles and stories that keep her coming back year after year.
"We want to be positive role models in their lives and get them to learn to love their community and give back." said Gabriel.
Macdonald believes Gabriel is the glue that keeps the program running.
"She is highly respected by the community and the kids always look forward to seeing her again every summer. She really is the heart and soul of the program.”