Friends (left to right) Cassie Hrelia, Guila Abad, Jeanine Banting – all friends from high school – joined Riverside Secondary Grade 9er Ella Gasper as volunteers at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre’s That’s the Spirit charity shopping event Tuesday. All of the girls – each wearing a Christmas tree hat – have volunteered at one of the mall’s charity events in past, and the three older girls from Clayton Heights insist it has now become their special tradition. (Roxanne Hooper/Langley Advance)

VIDEO: Holiday spirit bubbled over at Langley mall’s charity event

Christmasy festivities kicked off at Willowbrook with special shopping event.

For the first time in five months, Cloverdale’s Tara Sutherland was about to get out of the house, her mother and daughter in tow.

It’s been five months since baby Willow was born, and it seemed only fitting that their first social outing together would be to Willowbrook Shopping Centre, Mom said.

“This is a big night for me,” Sutherland said, who had all intentions of doing some Christmas shopping Tuesday night. But by the time Willow had nodded off to sleep in her stroller, Sutherland had only managed to find a few items for herself. Christmas shopping would likely have to wait for another day.

Carollers

Likewise, it was a big night for a trio of Vancouver women who ventured out to Langley for an evening of fun and Christmas festivities.

L.J. Mounteney, Lori Johnson, and Andrea Unrau are part of the 21-year-old Caminando Carolers, and they wandered around the Willowbrook mall performing both traditional and contemporary Christmas music.

These ladies were among hundreds, more likely thousands, who came out for the mall’s annual charity shopping night tonight.

READ: Holiday shopping kicks off in Langley with charity event at Willowbrook

Willowbrook partnered with 17 local charities this year for their That’s the Spirit event. Guests paid an admission fee to enter. All admission money goes to the charities.

Last year, Willowbrook reported raising more than $41,000 for 21 charities. Figures are still being tallied for attendance and funds raised through this year’s event, but marketing director Kaylesha Penner was optimistic.

In addition to kicking off their Christmas shopping, many consumers who came out Tuesday night were motivated to attend so they could enter to win more than $25,000 worth of prizes, enjoy some complimentary treats and refreshments, have their caricature drawn, and listen to some of the live entertainment.

Given the evening’s high winds and somewhat inclement weather, organizers opened up the doors a little earlier than normal, Penner explained.

She noted that the numbers of people waiting to get in, even a half hour before the official event launch, was surprising and uplifting.

“It was a fantastic event supporting 17 local charities. We would like to thank all of the volunteers, sponsors, and supporters for their help with making this event a big success,” Penner added, noting there were 100 prize winners from the event who will be contacted soon.