The Christmas Cheer Board's executive director says Kai Madsen's death is a "great time to reminder to be kind to one another" as they mourn him.
Winnipeg was shaken Wednesday after learning about the death of retired Christmas Cheer Board executive director Kai Madsen this week, proving just how much of an impact he made. Madsen retired for health reasons in August after more than 50 years with the organization, leaving Shawna Bell to fill his well-worn seat.
"The city became a little sadder because of the loss of him. It is amazing though to see exactly how many people care that much and recognize the value of what his contribution was over the years," Bell says. "It really confirmed everything I already knew about him and I am glad that people cared about him as much as I saw and heard."
She says while she knew his illness was serious, his Tuesday death was a shock. The past day has been difficult for her, but seeing the outpouring of support has helped.
"People that I know personally, people that I have run into, as soon as I mention the cheer board everyone has a story about the organization," she says. "The positivity and the impact that Ka and the cheer board have had on people across the city over the years has been amazing."
Bell says the number of lives he reached is immeasurable.
"He was a man who just really, really enjoyed the interactions he had with people. and I think people who had met him in the past, who have their own stories about him should just reflect on those stories. His relationships were such as huge part of who he was as a person."
Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) President David Chartrand says Madsen was "one of its beacons of cheer and hope" in a statement.
"Kai was the epitome of Christmas spirit. Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop him from making sure that no child went without Christmas. His spirit and determination made a real and lasting difference in the lives of many families. No one could say no to Kai’s passion for his beautiful work," Chartrand's statement says.
MMF regularly donated to the cheer board and worked closely with them when the board needed help, such as delivering hampers or needing musicians. Chartrand says he nominated Madsen many times for the Order of Manitoba.
"I wish he could have received this honour in his lifetime and am saddened that this opportunity has passed."
This year's drive will look like last year's but one element is coming back that Madsen would be glad to see: toys. Food vouchers will be mailed out once again this year due to the pandemic but children will be getting toys.