Christmas would not be the same for hundreds of children this year without the donations from the first Gateway Gives and Loco-Landing Community Toy Drive.
People who bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Nov. 26 sit-down breakfast from 6 to 9 a.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre will be doing something nice for kids from Summerland to Princeton.
In total 16 agencies will receive the toys to distribute to families whose youngsters might otherwise receive little or nothing.
In fact, according to program coordinator Traci Fladager of the Dragonfly Pond Society, without the toys, her Christmas party would have to be changed or cancelled altogether.
“Ever since we started Dragonfly Pond we’ve relied heavily on the breakfast to get toys for the party,” said Fladager, whose agency works with kids with disabilities throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen from Summerland to Princeton.
Over the years the number of families helped by Dragonfly has grown to 74 and according to the coordinator, the Christmas event is one of the few where everyone can get together in a comfortable setting.
“Especially for those who have complex care needs, perhaps if the child is loud or perhaps unable to sit through an event, it’s okay,” said Fladager.
“There’s things for everybody to do. It’s in a large auditorium and there are quiet rooms places where they can do crafts until Santa comes.
Tanya Behardian executive director of the Penticton and District Community Resources Society is someone else who has experienced firsthand a family’s happiness to get something, no matter how small, to give to their children.
“The mom answered the door and we started to bring the boxes in and she just burst into tears,” she recalled.
She added that the mother was overcome and relieved by the generosity.
“That she could actually provide something like that for her kids was really gratifying and relieving for her. You could see how much stress it really was.”
She added the number of families needing help continues to grow each year and many of her clients are often working two or more jobs and still can’t make ends meet. The stress is only compounded at this time of year.
Her society helps over 115 families and last year gave out 450 toys in addition to the other services it provides year round.
“I’ve also been directly involved with distributing the toys to families who need them,” said coordinator Cheri Mitchell, of the Community Action Plan for Children program in Keremeos which operates under the umbrella of the Lower Similkameen Community Services. “What I’ve seen is that people are really touched that there are still people out there that are trying make things better for people who aren’t able to access things for themselves.”
Empty stockings to be filled can be picked up and dropped at Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce office at 553 Vees Dr. for those unable to attend the breakfast.