Krista Simpson, chairperson for The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, and Santa Claus were joined by the Nanaimo Clippers team for Thursday’s kick-off event of the annual toy drive at Woodgrove Centre. The donation drive has collected Christmas presents for children of Nanaimo’s underprivileged families since 1982. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive launches 37th year collecting presents for kids

Toy drive makes sure children in Nanaimo’s less fortunate families have presents Christmas morning

The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive has kicked off its 37th season of gathering Christmas gifts for Nanaimo’s children of underprivileged families.

The event happened Thursday at Woodgrove Centre where sponsors supporting agencies, including the Nanaimo Clippers hockey team, Nanaimo Fire Rescue, Nanaimo Correctional Centre, Woodgrove Centre, the Island Rail Corridor Foundation, Save-On-Foods, Coastal Community Credit Union, Lantzville Royal Canadian Legion Branch 257 Ladies Auxiliary, World Financial Group and others turned out with toys for Woodgrove Centre’s giant toy box and nearly $20,000 in cash donations, which included $16,000 from World Financial Group.

The annual Great Nanaimo Toy Drive will make sure children from about 750 Nanaimo families will have presents under their Christmas trees on Christmas morning.

“Good news: According to the 2019 Vital Signs there are fewer numbers of children living in poverty in Nanaimo in 2019 as compared to 2016,” said Carolyn Iles, Great Nanaimo Toy Drive board member, during her speech. “Not so good news: Unfortunately, the percentage of children living in poverty in our community has changed very little.”

About 20 per cent of children in Nanaimo are living in poverty.

“We wish this statistic was different. We know many in our community are actively working to make this happen. Until it does, with the support of the people, organizations and businesses of Nanaimo, the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive will continue to provide help and hope for families with no other means of providing toys for our children at Christmas,” Iles said.

This year’s toy drive will collect toy and cash donations until Dec. 16. Donation drop off locations for new, unwrapped toys for children of ages ranging from newborn to 16 are at Woodgrove Centre, Save-On-Foods location, Nanaimo North Town Centre near London Drugs, Country Club Centre near JYSK, Coastal Community Credit Union branches, Island Savings Credit Union branches, Nanaimo Museum, Lowe’s, the Port Theatre and the four Nanaimo Fire Rescue stations.

The annual Nanaimo Clippers hockey team’s Teddy Bear Toss event, which happens Dec. 7 when the Clippers go up against the Surrey Eagles at Frank Crane Arena, is a major contributor of toys to the drive.

Suggested gifts are new toys, board games or puzzles, activity kits, books, stocking stuffers, stuffed animals and gift cards. Cash donations also allow toy drive volunteer shoppers to purchase gifts for children and teens.

Parents and guardians can register for the 2019 Great Nanaimo Toy Drive using children’s care cards or other official identification and proof of residency in Nanaimo, Nov. 18-30 at Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank sites; Dec. 2-6 at University Village Shopping Centre and on Dec. 17 at the toy distribution centre, location yet to be determined.

The toy drive is completely volunteer driven and is always in need of volunteers.

To learn more about The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, how to donate, gift ideas, to register or become a volunteer, visit https://thegreatnanaimotoydrive.ca/.



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