Kai Madsen Memorial Scholarship


One of our priorities as we move the Christmas Cheer Board to a new reality is to
always remember our past. In this case, that means honouring the remarkable
contributions of our late executive director Kai Madsen.

With that firmly in mind, today we announce the Kai Madsen Memorial
Scholarship, a scholarship fund that will help students from Winnipeg high schools to
continue their post-secondary education.

The scholarship will be awarded to a student from schools in the Winnipeg School
Division each year going forward and represents one of the best ways we know to keep
his legacy in mind. Our partner in the establishment and administration of this
scholarship is The Winnipeg Foundation.

“After Kai's passing, the board of directors looked for the best way to honour his
memory,” said current executive director Shawna Bell. “We also heard from so many
people across the city and beyond. After speaking with the family, we felt the best way to
remember Kai was to work with The Winnipeg Foundation to establish this scholarship."

“The financial costs of post-secondary education are often a barrier for young
people pursuing their dreams. Through this scholarship, Kai's love of Winnipeg lives on,
helping inner-city students achieve their education goals.”

Madsen had been involved with the Cheer Board for five decades, more than half of
those as executive director. He retired from that post in 2021 and then passed away later
in the year. The show must go on, however, the CCB knows that only too well.

“Kai may have left us, but the important work of the Cheer Board continues,” says
Board chair Jackie Britton. “This fall, we will return to food and toy hampers knowing
that he is beside us cheering us on to help families in need over the holidays.”

The Kai scholarship is not the first of its kind for CCB. A scholarship in the name
of Byrdye Beckel has been awarded each year since 1999. Beckel was of course
executive director of the charity prior to Madsen.

For more information, please contact Bell at 204-981-8705.

Bell confirmed as permanent Cheer Board executive director


Bell confirmed as permanent Cheer Board executive director


The Christmas Cheer Board today announced that Shawna Bell has been made permanent executive director of the Winnipeg charity, removing the interim tag from her title.


Bell had served as interim executive director of the CCB during the 2021 Christmas season and before that as board chair. She brings a wealth of experience and energy to the position in a time when the board needs it most. In short, the choice was natural.


All things changed for the organization during Bell’s ‘interim’ tenure. Its iconic executive Kai Madsen retired and then passed away later in the year, and the board had to leave its home on St. James St. Did we mention that there was a Pandemic on as well which resulted in the difficult decision to distribute food vouchers and toys instead of the usual hampers?


The board found a temporary home at 1081 Ellice Ave. for the ’21 season and the show did go on, thanks in no small part to Bell’s dedicated leadership.


“From finding a temporary home from which to deliver Cheer Board packages, introducing new technology and dealing with hurdles attributed to COVID, Shawna was able to lead the organization successfully through this past Christmas season,” says current board chair Jackie Britton. “It truly is a testament to her abilities!”


A 48-year-old mother of two and a life-long Winnipegger, Bell and the Cheer Board have faced, and are facing, significant challenges as the calendar turns and the board heads into its 103rd year of existence.


The CCB has launched a search for a new home but Its requirements are not easily met. It needs thousands of square feet of space (about 40,000) to produce hampers during a three-month period in November/January.


But its space requirements shrink significantly during the rest of the calendar year. The board knows this and is ready to consider creative solutions with landlords and with partners who face a similar set of requirements.


“… We have reached out to members of the community and municipal government to explore options,” says Bell. “Our need for space is essential to return to packing and delivering food hampers to families in need.”


“This is the absolute best way we can support people around the holiday season. We are looking for community-focused partners and hope to have an update in early spring on our search.”


Bell is only the third executive director of the Cheer Board in the ‘modern’ era, following in the footsteps of Byrdye Beckel and Madsen. Despite the fact that the institution is more than 100 years old, Bell says it needs to have an ear to the needs of the community.


“Over that century, Winnipeg has changed in so many ways. Now is the time to reach out to the community to listen and learn,” she says. “We want to make sure that the support we provide makes sense, and where it doesn’t, we'll take that feedback and work to improve on our service delivery.


“We are a grassroots organization and we need to support the community for as long as the community needs us.”


The choice of Bell to lead the Cheer Board into the future seemed right in so many ways.


“I have always loved the work of the Christmas Cheer Board and hearing the stories of people who have volunteered with us and those who have received support from us in the past,”  Bell says. “This is a great organization. Let's work together to make it better!”


For information, please contact Britton at 204-792-5331 or jackstones225@gmail.com; or Bell at 204-981-8705 or sbell@christmascheerboard.ca.

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