NNSL Photo/Graphic


Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

The spirit of giving

Herb Mathisen
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 5, 2011

Hundreds of toys will be finding their way north and into the hands of children across the territory just in time for Christmas, thanks to the generosity of Torontonians and the diligent work of the RCMP.

NNSL photo/graphic

Const. Steve Johnson, right, delivers toys to, from left, Mariah and Marilyn McDonald in Aklavik on Dec. 24, 2010. Johnson and his fellow RCMP members across the territory will once again be donning Santa suits and handing out toys to children whose families may be going through tough times, as part of the second annual Toys for the North campaign. - photo courtesy of Steve Johnson

Now in its second year, the Toys for the North campaign began with discussions between various Toronto organizations and members of the RCMP. Through

these conversations, the RCMP illuminated just how much some children in the North would appreciate a few extra toys around the holidays, said Jeff Hurst, the chair of the Canadian Toy Association (CTA.)

"We felt there was a good opportunity to help make Christmases brighter for those children," Hurst said.

The initiative was made possible through the collaboration of the CTA, the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, the Toronto Zoo, the RCMP and various other toy and transportation companies.

Hurst said toys were collected during last month's Santa Claus Parade and at the Toronto Zoo, adding eight toy manufacturers each also donated more than $5,000 worth of new toys to the drive.

"Last year, we were thrilled and excited to have gotten $50,000 (in donations,)" said Hurst, noting this year's Toys for the North campaign collected more than $80,000 in toys.

From Toronto, the gifts will be shipped central RCMP detachments in the North and distributed to kids across Nunavut, the NWT and Yukon.

RCMP G Division Cpl. Wes Heron said last year, 760 toys were sent into NWT communities, including Fort Resolution, Gameti, Hay River, Fort Smith, Ulukhaktok and Aklavik.

"This year we are endeavoring to hit every community," he said, adding he expects even more toys than last year.

Heron said each detachment in the NWT engaged members in the community to identify kids or families they thought would benefit from the toys. He said social workers and schools will report those names back to the local detachments, which will allow the Yellowknife detachment to compile a list of what is required across the territory.

RCMP members in Yellowknife will then be busy, wrapping seven pallets worth of toys and sorting them according to the needs of the territory's communities.

"We're just the elves," Heron said, referring to the RCMP's gift-wrapping responsibilities.

However, community RCMP officers will be playing the role of Santa Claus, as they will be going door-to-door to hand out gifts to the kids.

Const. Steve Johnson, now based in Ulukhaktok, donned the Santa suit in Aklavik last Dec. 24 and hand-delivered presents, from his big bag of toys, to some of the community's girls and boys.

Johnson is looking forward to this year's drive, adding Toys for the North is very much appreciated by families who are going through hard times.

"Aklavik is a good community and they take care of their members, but there are always a few families that could use a little extra," he said, adding some parents are home with medical issues, which makes it difficult for them to afford Christmas presents for their kids.

"We got a lot of smiles, hugs and thanks," he said. "It was really rewarding."

"A few parents gave us hugs and there were tears in their eyes and that touches you deep down inside."

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.