A new National Arts Centre initiative will allow hundreds of underprivileged children and their families in the Ottawa area a chance to make some memories this holiday season.

Aimed at families who — for financial or health reasons — may not have the opportunity to enjoy live performances at the NAC, the Share the Spirit campaign launched Thursday.

With donations from corporate and individual sponsors, the NAC will provide free tickets to kids and their families to attend performances and open rehearsals of holiday classics including Handel’s Messiah, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and A Leahy Family Christmas.


Musicians from the NAC Orchestra will also visit and perform for patients at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Roger’s House.

Tickets will be distributed through project partners Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa, Candlelighters, the CHEO Foundation, the Ottawa Food Bank, the Sens Foundation, and the Snowsuit Fund.

“The holidays are such a magical time for children,” said Norma Lamont, VP of community development with CHEO. “We hope to create unforgettable memories.”

If this project is successful, there’s a possibility the program can run all year, said NAC Foundation CEO Jayne Watson.

While Ottawa is generally a wealthy city, poverty is still prevalent, with one in five children living in poverty, said honourary chairman of Share the Spirit Max Keeping.

Children need access to the arts and recreation to be successful, Keeping said.

To donate to Share the Spirit, call 613-947-7000 ext. 331. Until Christmas, the NAC is also encouraging patrons to drop off donations of non-perishable food and gently used children’s winter outerwear in a drop box in the NAC lobby.

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