Toy drive gives gift of hope

NANAIMO: Having a gift under the tree to unwrap at Christmas time is a special experience.

Ryland Borzel

Ryland Borzel

Having a gift under the tree to unwrap at Christmas time is a special experience – a feeling of anticipation in the days leading up to Christmas morning and the excitement of opening a gift intended just for you.

The organizers of the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive want to ensure all children have this experience.

“Hope is an important element of a human being’s life and when children receive even one gift, they have an opportunity to participate in a custom that is designed to promote hope, encourage hope in people,” said Carolyn Iles, toy drive publicity director. “Because we want everyone to be hopeful, we like every child to have a present.”

The 29th annual toy drive, which launches Thursday (Nov. 15), collects toys and money to purchase presents for underprivileged children in Nanaimo with the goal of ensuring no child goes empty-handed at Christmas time.

In 2011, the campaign provided presents for more than 1,600 children.

“It’s really about the village raising the child,” said Iles. “It’s a way that parents can be supported.”

People can drop off donations at Woodgrove Centre, Nanaimo North Town Centre, Country Club Centre, all four Coastal Community Credit Union branches, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire halls and the Port Theatre.

Hockey fans can also bring stuffed toys to the Nanaimo Clippers game at Frank Crane Arena Dec. 1, where they toss the toys on the ice when the Clippers score their first goal.

The Nanaimo News Bulletin’s annual Pennies for Presents campaign, which also launches Thursday, is one of the toy drive’s biggest revenue generators.

“Our biggest partners are the people of Nanaimo,” said Iles. “Without their support, our goal can’t be reached.”

Iles said the age limit was lowered to 16 from 17 this year – organizers are anticipating a greater demand for the service due to the economic climate, that many teenagers have jobs of their own by age 17. There is also less in the organization’s coffers than usual for this time of year, partly because the Nanaimo Toy Run Society’s second annual toy run, held in July, was rained out and public participation was lower.

For toy donations, Iles recommends gift cards or movie tickets for older kids, and for newborns and younger kids whatever people think will strike a child’s fancy.

Early registration takes place at all Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank distribution locations and registration week is Nov. 26-30 at the old Madill building off Labieux Road.

Then on Dec. 19 and 20, the toys are distributed – parents select one large or two smaller presents per child along with a book, a stuffed toy if appropriate and a few stocking stuffers.

Iles said the group is also looking for more volunteers.

For more information, please go to www.thegreatnanaimotoydrive.ca.

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