The Lions Step In
Lions clubs in the Pacific Northwest saw the need, and wanted to do something to make the holidays happier. "The kids on the islands didn't have transportation to and from the big cities," according to Don Wight of the Bellingham Lions Club. "One of the islands asked if a boat that had lights on it could possibly come out to the islands with candy and toys for the kids."
That marked the beginning of the Christmas Ship. Every December for the past 60 years, Santa has suited up and stepped off the Christmas Ship to bring gifts and joy to people living in remote islands off the coast of Bellingham, Washington in the United States and British Colombia, Canada.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Today, Lions dressed as pirates, elves, clowns and Santa all climb aboard the Christmas Ship to create a unique holiday experience. Dozens of Lions clubs throughout Washington and British Columbia collaborate to make the project a success. "It just is inspiring to everybody there. Everybody feels it," says Judy Portas of the Abbottsford Lions Club. "It's just a vibration and they all cheer and wait. So it's just a great, great experience."
Almost all of the islands that the ship visits are home to a Lions club. And every island offers its own brand of hospitality – from bagpipes to bonfires to a fire truck escort. "It's certainly well received on the island," says Harry Lane of the Main Island Lions Club. "It's an event nobody's gonna miss, that's for sure."
During the two day cruise, Lions give away approximately 800 gifts to children and seniors. Santa also makes time to visit with the elderly and homebound during this event.