RICHMOND: Holiday helpers from across the Lower Mainland participated in the grand toy count in Richmond on Saturday for the 15th Annual Victor Ghirra toy drive. Due to the pandemic and recent flooding in the province, non-profit organizations across the Lower Mainland saw an increased need for donations from the community. Over 100 people flowed through the grand toy count event.
This year’s event gave people the option to drop off toys via drive through or come indoors to witness the growing toy collection themselves. Guests were greeted by volunteers as they dropped off toys, with many staying to enjoy some coffee and treats before having their photo taken in the Winter Wonderland booth.
With 2021 being an especially challenging year in the province with the pandemic, fires and floods, the hope is that these toys will provide some joy to less fortunate children during the holiday season. With the help of the Benevolent Brotherhood Society, the Ghirra family, The Co-operators Insurance agencies, Riverside Banquet Halls, Johnston Meier Insurance and Vancity Credit Union, over 2,500+ toys were collected!
In memory of the man with a golden heart, the toy drive is devoted to making holidays brighter for hundreds of boys and girls. Bobby Ghirra, Victor’s older brother said: “During the holiday season is when I miss my brother the most. The holidays are a time to be with family and we want this toy drive to make others happy this time of year. We continue this toy drive to honour my brother’s memory.”
Victor was involved in many charitable initiatives, but one charity that Victor was really touched by was the BC Children’s Hospital. A heartwarming story that depicts Victor’s character was when he would buy thousands of dollars of toys every Christmas and go to Children’s Hospital to donate them to needy children. When they would ask, “Who are you and where are these toys from?” Victor would simply reply, “It doesn’t matter who I am or where I am from, these toys are for the kids and that’s all you need to know.”
It was later found that Victor had made trips to the hospital for over a dozen years. Victor was just being Victor, he didn’t tell anyone what he was up to.
Victor left a lasting impression on his colleagues, many who still remember his charitable nature. Joe Casciano, Operations Supervisor with The Co-operators said: “With employees participation we raised over $900 by raffling off tickets to a Canucks game, special thanks to The Co-operators agencies team and Metro Vancouver District office.”
Jerry Gamble, Johnston Meier Insurance; worked with Victor and stepped up once again to help: “For the second year Johnston Meier contributed to the toy drive and the toys just kept on coming in. It is bigger and better every year. Each year we are so amazed at the generosity of others. If Victor was looking down and grinning last year, he would have a massive smile on his face this year!”
The annual toy drive dedicated to Victor was able to help 15 good causes this year including: BC Children’s Hospital, Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, Key Solutions, Richmond Christmas Fund, Options BC, Canuck Place, Nightshift Ministries – Care Centre, North Shore Family Services – Christmas Bureau, Second Stage Women’s Centre, Ray-Cam Community Centre, Surrey Christmas Bureau, Kids Play, Richmond Food Bank and two local schools with families in need. More than 45,150-plus toys have been collected over the past 15 years in memory of Victor.
Harvey Kooner of BBS – founder of the toy drive, said: “Something that you can never doubt is the amazing heart of British Columbians wanting to give back to good causes. This year there will be 2,500+ happy children during the holidays thanks to Victor’s legacy. It felt as though donors gave even more thought and care into the gifts they bought for little ones and teens this year. No one wanted anybody to be forgotten.”
The Richmond Sunrise Rotary supported the toy drive with a Secret Santa toys donation as well as a monetary donation. During a recent Richmond Sunrise Rotary meeting, members got together to share what toys they enjoyed playing with when they were children and donated them to the toy drive. In addition to the toys, they also donated $2,500 towards purchasing toys for this year’s grand toy count. Kal Mahal, Richmond Sunrise Rotary member: “This toy drive has been taking place in Richmond for 15 years, we see it as a way to support the community and we’re happy to give back to such a worthy cause. There are many people who need help out there, we wanted to do our part to give back.”
For more information on how you can make a difference with next year’s toy drive, contact Harvey Kooner at 604-671-4180 or [email protected].