Doorsteps across Alberta are being hit by ninjas, fairies and wizards bearing a boozy bounty during coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a growing wave of people into fantastical characters delivering good cheer to strangers in communities across the province — and in mere days, the phenomenon has spread across the country.
“Wine Ninjas” was the brainchild of childhood best friends Aimee Fieber of Stettler, and Shannan Stubbert of Bowden.
The friends, now 30, recently lamented that they hadn’t seen one another since December, and hadn’t been able to exchange Christmas gifts.
“With social distancing, we didn’t know how to get them to each other, and talked about being sneaky little ninjas and dropping them off at each other’s houses,” Stubbert said.
The idea brewed a discussion about acts of kindness during a tough time. The women created the Alberta Wine Ninjas Facebook group right then and there, while they were on the phone.
They could have never predicted how it would blow up.
After just a week, the group had ballooned to 40,000 members.
A classic game of ring and run
The idea behind being a wine ninja is to leave a gift on someone’s doorstep, ring the bell and run like hell — ninja style, in an attempt to keep it anonymous.
Ninjas have taken to filling gift bags or baskets with a bottle of wine, coolers, treats, self-care products, handmade masks and other offerings.
The Alberta group is for women only, and it, and many similar groups — there is a men’s only Whisky Wizards group — are private, because members share home addresses to be gifted.
Stubbert and Fieber were unprepared for the response to their idea.
“It’s been pretty interesting trying to keep it under control. We have an amazing group of ladies we have connected with, and without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing right now,” Fieber said, adding that when it’s safe to congregate again, the friends plan to throw a mixer to meet their virtual helpers in person.
‘People need a bright moment in this crazy time we’re in.’
Seeing women uplift and give to each other has been heartening for the friends to witness.
“People need a bright moment in this crazy time we’re in. Everybody is lonely, and there are lots of women at home that don’t have a spouse to talk to. This brightens their day,” Fieber said.
“Communities are feeling very separated right now. There is almost like a paranoia to it where you’re treating your neighbours differently and you don’t want to connect. This brings women together in a safe way,” Stubbert adds.
The pair is planning to organize “super ninja-ing” of some people, including someone that has been delivering hampers in her Edmonton community, a mother that lost her child to COVID-19, and to flood-ravaged Ft. McMurray residents.
The activity has caught the attention of a number of merchants who are offering discounts to Alberta Wine Ninja shoppers. Troubled Monk craft brewery in Red Deer has created a special wine ninja assortment pack.
The founders are allowing merchants to advertise using their logo if retailers donate 15 per cent of profits from sales to women’s shelters.
Calgary wine ninja splinter cell
Calgarian Brittney Rodych has her own rollercoaster “wine ninja” story.
She joined Alberta Wine Ninjas, and ended up creating her own Facebook group, Calgary SE Wine & Dine Ninjas, after feeling overwhelmed with the sheer amount of activity in the original group.
She figured she could manage a smaller version of the same concept. Except within just three days, the group had already grown to nearly 2,000 members.
Rodych, a mother of five kids ages one to 14, is a confessed organization freak. She’s now laughing at the irony of her group blowing up so quickly that she had to ask a friend to help moderate it.
It’s such a wonderful thing in a hard time. It’s been so grey lately, and this has added so much colour.Brittney Rodych, Calgary
She’s organized her group under community names, where people can post requests to be ninja’d.
The activity has helped Rodych, a stay-at-home mom used to scheduled activities every day of the week, feel less anxiety seeing her colour-coded planner covered with “cancelled.”
“I’m like, everything is cancelled, Oh boy this is going to be lonely and slow with just me and the kids,” but between online schooling and the ninja group, Rodych’s time is filled.
“It’s such a wonderful thing in a hard time. It’s been so grey lately, and this has added so much colour,” she said.
Ninja gets ninja’d
Recipients are often moved to tears. Heather Cloutier is a member of the Alberta group, and has ninja’d several people. She was thrilled to find a gift of her own.
Politics, pandemic, to mask or not to mask, these things might divide us, but Wine Ninjas has brought us all together.– Heather Cloutier, Peace River
The Peace River area woman farms canola and wheat with her husband, and has 100 head of bison. A friend invited her to the Facebook group.
“We just finished our harvest from last year, which was so stressful. Now we are heading into spring seeding, schooling from home and social distancing. This whole phenomenon has filled my heart,” Cloutier said.
“Watching the videos, seeing the pictures, reading the words of gratitude sure makes you realize we are all in this storm together. Politics, pandemic, to mask or not to mask, these things might divide us, but Wine Ninjas has brought us all together. It’s about helping each other through.”