Guests are greeted with a warm welcome as they drop off gifts at the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive in 2018. (Lissa Alexander photo)

Big Hearts to descend on the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive

Annual event takes place Nov. 27 in Parksville

By Lissa Alexander

Christmas is a joyful time, especially for children, but it also comes with expectations that can be difficult for parents.

Instead of feeling cheerful that Christmas was approaching, Leslie* would feel overwhelmed. (*Leslie’s name has been changed to protect her identity.)

“I would become anxious and try not to show my children because they were excited. I wanted them to have the same experience as their friends at school. For me, just being able to cover the basics, milk and rent and heat, it was hard to come up with the extras, especially for Christmas morning.”

Those feelings were eased when Leslie was able to access the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. The program, which has been running for more than 50 years in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region, provides special gifts for children and youth, and families and individuals receive grocery store gift cards so they may choose food that is important to them over the holidays.

After her children found their gifts under the tree, and discovered all the little treats in their stockings, it was important for Leslie to let them know that caring people with big hearts in the community wanted to make sure they had something special at Christmas.

“I wanted them to know there was some help, so they are aware. ‘People and families in this area were thinking of you all in their hearts and they wanted these gifts to be under our tree.’”

On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive will take place, helping fill the SOS Toy Shop with gifts and gift cards so that low-income parents and grandparents can shop for free and experience the magic of Christmas with their children. The event will also assist SOS with reaching its Christmas campaign goal of $120,000 to meet the needs of all the residents who apply for the program.

Paul Drummond, General Manager at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre, hopes that no local child will go without a gift on Christmas morning. He is optimistic that the event he started 11 years ago will once again help fill the SOS Toy Shop where Christmas wishes and dreams come true for residents in-need.

“The smiles the kids will get on Christmas morning that they wouldn’t have had otherwise, it really does move us all,” said Drummond.

Last year marked the 10th year of the Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive, the biggest toy drive of its kind on Vancouver Island. Over the years, the event has brought in close to 13,950 toys and over $67,500 in donations for the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program. Guests can bring a new, unwrapped toy, a gift card, or a monetary donation and receive a free buffet breakfast at the award-winning resort.

READ MORE: Tigh-Na-Mara hosts 10th annual Toy Drive for SOS IN 2018

Last year the event garnered 1,990 gifts, $4,573 in gift cards and $9,230 in cash and cheques.

Drummond said his goal is that the community be as generous this year as they have been in the past years.

“The need in our community is unfortunately not going down so we would love to match or exceed last year’s donations,” said Drummond.

He added that he hopes the event continues to make his team of volunteers feel they are part of something much bigger than Tigh-Na-Mara, and that it helps spread community — and Christmas — spirit for all who attend.

The Toy Drive Breakfast will run from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Tigh-Na-Mara, located at 1155 Resort Dr. in Parksville. There will also be a drive-through breakfast and toy drop off available from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Guests are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the local Salvation Army food bank, which will provide food for hundreds of residents over the holiday season and beyond.

For information on the SOS Caring for Community at Christmas program visit www.sosd69.com.

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