Oak Bay teen Leah Smith hopes to hit a toy milestone this weekend.
Her annual toy drive for the Stan Hagen Centre For Families is Dec. 15 and 16. After falling short last year, she hopes to gather 1,000 toys over just two days.
Last year’s drive saw her donating almost 800.
“It pretty much filled my entire basement,” Smith said.
After collecting all the toys, Smith takes them home and sorts through them while watching Christmas movies. Because her toy drive also accepts gently used toys, she likes to go through them to make sure they’re not — as she puts it — completely used.
“We’ve only had one or two of those every year,” she said. “99.9 percent are great to be donated.”
The hard part is getting the toys to the Stan Hagen Centre. Somehow, Smith and her family managed to take all the toys that filled their basement, and pack them into two family cars.
“It was one trip, but it was to the point where the entire car was full. You couldn’t see out the back, and sitting in the passenger seat I had two giant garbage bags full of toys just sitting on my lap,” Smith remembered with a laugh. “This year I’m hoping it will be two trips, just to show how much progress there’s been.”
When she first attempted a toy drive she was in grade 6. It didn’t go well.
“We had like five toys in total. Then in Grade 8, I thought I could try it again and just revamp the whole drive.”
Fast forward a few years and Smith—who is now in grade 12 at Oak Bay High—has grown her toy drive from five items into an Oak Bay holiday staple.
“It was just really to help families that are in different circumstances. I know especially the holiday season can be a really financially strenuous situation for many families. Providing any form of relief is just something that I feel like is just a good thing to do, especially during the holiday season because that’s when a lot of people are in a giving mood.”
Smith encourages people to bring items that don’t always pop in mind when we think of toy drives.
“It’s not as exciting to think about a teenager unwrapping a toy compared to a three-year-old who’s opening their favourite stuffed animal,” Smith explained. “For teens some of the best stuff includes sports equipment; soccer balls, basketball nets, that sort of stuff is really great. As well as gift cards. Evidently, I say its a toy drive, but we still do take other gift ideas.”
She noted that even small things like cosmetics could be great for teens.
The toy drive runs Dec. 15 and 16 from noon to 4 p.m. in front of Oak Bay Pharmasave, 2200 Oak Bay Ave.