These Kamloops kids just want empty bottles for Christmas | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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These Kamloops kids just want empty bottles for Christmas

December 19, 2019 - 8:13 AM

Patricia O’Neill was at home when she heard a knock on her door and found three pre-teen boys on her doorstep.

They asked for any spare drink containers.

“They’re sweet and kind and well mannered, they call you ma’am, and even though I said, ‘Oh I’m sorry, we just took all the bottles in,’ he said, ‘That’s all right, have a great day,’ and just hopped off down the road. It was the cutest damn thing,” O’Neill says.

“I started crying after he left because I thought, ‘What kind of A-hole am I that I didn’t give him anything?’ So I ran and got $20 and ran down the street to give it to them... the little boy holds up the $20 like it was a trophy and he yelled, ‘She gave us 20 dollars!’ They all started jumping up and down and dancing around.”

O’Neill realized the boys were likely bringing the bottles to a General Grant’s recycling centre, so she headed over to find out more about the family. She found all of the staff there were familiar with the family and told her the three brothers were collecting bottles amid some family money troubles. They were known as the "Christmas family."

“We’re collecting for Christmas because we lost everything in a house fire, and we want to give our sisters a good Christmas,” one of the boys collecting bottles told

Various family members explained their situation if we assured them they could remain anonymous. They didn’t seek this attention and say they are trying their best after a string of tough luck.

An electrical fire forced them out of their home in the Lower Mainland. They then moved into a fifth-wheel trailer, where their daughter got an infection from hidden mould, the father said.

“We took flashlights and looked through the whole fifth wheel and found the tanks were leaking and there was mould," he said. "We scrounged up money for a motel and we ended up staying in a motel for three months. Because we were paying $3,000 a month in motel bills, you can’t really save up the money you need, but we made do… but then we started seeing bed bug bites on our kid’s arms. We had a bed bug infestation and everything we re-gained, we lost again.”

Now, the family has found a home in Kamloops, but a car accident left both parents unable to work. They have now turned to social services for assistance, but say they are living a very different life from what they once did. They say they’ve never had this magnitude of bad luck, and the children just want their life to be how it once was.

“At first me and my brothers we would collect bottles around the house so we could get munchies," one of the brothers says. "We started doing that and me and my brothers had an idea of going out on weekends to collect bottles.”

When the boys came home and gave their parents $60 of the money they collected, the parents said they were shocked.

“They said, ‘we understand you guys are hurting... we want to help you out.’ They gave us $60 that night, and they just kept saying ‘we want to help you’... in the end, we told them ‘we don't want your money, that is our responsibility,’” the father said.

The parents called the city to ensure their boys weren’t breaking any bylaws. Now that the parents know about the boys’ side hustle, a parent goes out with them to ensure they are safe.

The boys have now saved up enough to buy themselves an Xbox, and plan to continue collecting so they can buy themselves new shoes and eventually a car for when they are old enough. Before they buy any of those items for themselves, they want to buy LOL dolls and a tea set as a Christmas gift for their young sisters.

You can drop off donations for the 'Christmas Family' at any General Grant's recycling depots in the river city.
You can drop off donations for the 'Christmas Family' at any General Grant's recycling depots in the river city.

O'Neill set up an account at General Grants which allows patrons of any General Grant’s location to donate their bottle refund to the family while the boys continue hunting their own empties.

If you want to donate to this family, bring your bottles to any General Grant’s recycling depot in Kamloops. There’s locations at 611 Fortune Dr., 963 Camosun Cres. and 1395 Battle St.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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