Koats for Kids kicks off with hugs & hot chocolate.

During our infamous Winnipeg winters, a warm coat can really make a difference in a child’s life.

Koats for Kids kicks of with hot chocolate & hugs.

BOB FM's Scott Morris & Kelly Parker model "hug scarves" & a sign handcrafted & donated by students at John G. Stewart school.

Nobody knows that better than newly retired CTV weather maven Sylvia Kuzyk, who’s been a proud ambassador for United Way’s Koats for Kids program since it began 23 years ago.

“In that time, Koats for Kids has collected and distributed more than 145,000 coats, ski pants, hats, scarves, mitts and boots free of charge to thousands of kids throughout Winnipeg,” Sylvia said during a media conference celebrating the launch of the 23rd season.

Sylvia was joined in Centre Court at St. Vital Centre by fellow Koats for Kids ambassadors Laurie Mustard (Winnipeg Sun), Scott Morris and Kelly Parker (BOB FM), as well as students and staff from John G. Stewart Middle School, who made a special presentation.

Principal Kevin Mackay told a touching story of how Koats for Kids has changed lives for kids in his school and unveiled a token of their appreciation: a new hand-crafted sign for the Koats for Kids Volunteer Centre on Portage Avenue, created by students with help from teacher Robert Unik and volunteer Norma Jack-Baschuck.

Following the media conference, mall-goers were invited to create a personalized “hug scarf” and donate a coat for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from St. Vital Centre. Volunteers remained in Centre Court until mall closing on October 1, taking donations and handing out free hot chocolate from Tim Hortons.

With the St. Vital collection drive now ended, Winnipeggers are encouraged to clean out their closets and bring donations of new and gently used winter outerwear in all sizes to any Winnipeg Fire Paramedic station or Perth’s location. Larger donations may be dropped off at AMJ Campbell Van Lines on Niakwa Road across from the Mint.

Koats for Kids is anticipating another 10,000 requests this year so every coat counts.

For information about how you can volunteer and help ensure no child is left out in the cold, contact Donna Albak at United Way. Call 586-KOAT (5628) or email Koats[at]unitedwaywinnipeg.mb.ca

To request winter outerwear please contact your child’s school, day care or a United Way agency partner in your area.

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