It was just after Christmas when Dorothy Gaspardone asked a young boy what he got for Christmas. When the boy told Gaspardone that he didn’t get a single Christmas present she made a pledge that no child in the Harbour City should go without a present. With the help of friends, family and multiple community organizations, Gaspardone created the first Great Nanaimo Toy Drive 34 years ago.Gasperdone’s vision remains alive three decades later. On Tuesday, the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive officially kicked off the 2016 Christmas season at Woodgrove Centre. Until Dec. 16, individuals can drop off unwrapped toys, gift cards, books and board games, stuffed animals and other items at Woodgrove and a number of other locations including Nanaimo North Town Centre, Country Club Mall, Lantzville Art Gallery and the Port Theatre. “We are fortunate in the City of Nanaimo that we have very generous citizens,” she said. “It is through their good grace and their generosity, that we are able as directors make sure that there are toys for children, whose families have no other way of providing toys at Christmas,” said Carolyn Iles, Great Nanaimo Toy Drive director.Individuals can also make cash donations to the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, which is a registered charity. Volunteers then use the cash donations to purchase toys for children.More than 1,400 children received toys from the drive last year. Bruce Rowland, the organization’s chairperson, said they need toys suitable for those between the ages of 5-16. “We are always looking for toys in that age group,” he said. “Or we take the cash that people have donated and go buy toys for those kids. Gift cards are great for the teen ages.” A number of local organizations and business are also contributing to the toy drive. Browns Social House will hold their annual pyjama drive on Dec. 4 and Nanaimo Clippers’ annual Teddy Bear Toss on Dec. 9, while the Calendar Club and the News Bulletin will also be accepting cash or toy donations.
“By ensuring that every family has the opportunity to provide toys for their children at Christmas, everyone wins,” Iles said.
Both Iles and Rowland said without the more than 180 volunteers the organization relies on each year, the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive wouldn’t be able to continue on an annual basis.”That’s what makes it successful,” Rowland said. “That’s what keeps it going.”For more information about the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, please visit www.thegreatnanaimotoydrive.ca.