MONTREAL—Holiday shopping for loved ones is something most of us take for granted, but for palliative care patients at the Montreal General Hospital, it's simply not an option.

Enter a special group of donors and volunteers.

This may well be Marie-Claude Brisebois' last Christmas. She would love to buy gifts for her children but she feels asking family to shop for her would be “selfish.”

“You're here every day taking care of me when you're not working, and then you're going to go out and do my shopping and this and that. No, I can't,” said Brisebois.

Imagine her surprise when a volunteer turned-up with a trolley full of gifts for Brisebois to choose from.

“This is rather special,” said Brisebois. “I thought they would come over with a cart and you would have to pay, but to be free like that? It’s extraordinary.”

For 25 years, it's been a tradition at the McGill University Health Centre’s palliative care unit

All year volunteers collect gifts, mainly from their friends, to let them choose during the holiday’s which gifts to give their families.

“When we tell them everything is free, everything is donated, they just can't believe people can be so generous,” said Sandra Watson, the MUHC’s volunteer coordinator.

This year, there was everything from toys for the grandchildren to pearls. Once patients have taken their pick, Santa's helpers wrap them all up.

For Brisebois, this is more than a gift, it’s a small gesture of gratitude.

“It means everything to me because everyone keeps giving, giving, giving,” said Brisebois. “At least everyone is going to get a little something from me.”