Special to The NEWS
What was the one Christmas gift you dreamed of when you were young? What did it feel like when you found that gift waiting for you under the Christmas tree?
For Parksville Mayor Chris Burger, it was a toy poodle he received when he was 12 years old.
“It was Christmas Eve, and my parents made me close my eyes. When I opened them, this ball of white fluff came running into my arms,” he says. “That dog was my constant friend until well into my young adulthood.”
Peter McCully, publisher of The NEWS, will never forget the day he felt he joined “the big leagues” when he received goalie gloves and a stick. “All the other kids on the street had the Real McCoy; I used a ball glove and a homemade blocker. After that I fit right in with the other kids.”
This Christmas, the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort is asking people in the community: this question: “If your child was to receive one gift this Christmas, what would it be?” It’s a god question to ask ahead of the fifth annual Toy Drive Breakfast, which takes place Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 6:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. People in the community are asked to bring that special gift (but no puppies!) to Tigh-Na-Mara to donate to the SOS Caring for Kids at Christmas program. To thank the community for their donation, Tigh Na Mara is offering a free breakfast to anyone who donates a toy.
The Toy Drive assists SOS in providing gifts for hundreds of children, whose caregivers are not able to afford a Christmas gift. So it’s ironic that the first Toy Drive took place five years ago, at a time when the hospitality industry was devastated by the recession.
“The whole community was suffering,” says Paul Drummond, general manager of Tigh-Na-Mara. “It was a lot to ask of the community, but they really rallied together and supported it, and have every year since.”
Five years later, Drummond still anticipates the Toy Drive with child-like enthusiasm. Drummond himself remembers a highlight of his childhood Christmases involved a new board game, and the whole family would gather around for hours to play.
The coveted gift for Island Radio’s morning man Dave Graham was an Etch-A-Sketch.
“As a young child, I was fascinated by how this machine could be manipulated to create images and then magically make them disappear. I maintain a fascination with that toy to this day.”
Renate Sutherland, executive director with SOS, said she feels grateful that the SOS can create magic for families at Christmas.
“I remember one family with a mom and dad, and three kids, and one of our volunteers offered them a new bicycle that someone had donated,” says Sutherland.
“The mother couldn’t believe it. And as we were helping to load it into their car, we opened the trunk and could see right through to the ground. The car was held together with rust and prayers, and here these parents were, just trying to create a meaningful Christmas for their kids. The mother told me that her kids would definitely believe in Santa now, because they had already told their kids that there wouldn’t be much under the tree that year.”
Every year at SOS, there are hundreds of stories much like this one, quietly taking place throughout the Christmas season. SOS sets up a Toy Shop with all the toys donated by the community, and parents can chose a gift for their children — perhaps that gift they will never forget. This year, there is a strong need for gifts for youth ages 10-17.
The Toy Drive is co-sponsored and supported by the NEWS, Island Radio and Shaw. If you would like to help create magic for children this year, be sure to drop your gift off at the 5th Annual Tigh-Na-Mara Toy Drive.
Santa hats are optional.