Calling all secret Santas on the Saanich Peninsula

Series of special events helping promote local Toys For Tots campaign.

A child takes part in a biting for apples event at Pumpkins of the Pier on Oct. 26

More than 300 children and families helped raise awareness of the Saanich Peninsula’s Toys For Tots program at a fun-filled Halloween event in Sidney.

Pumpkins on the Pier, a new seasonal event in its own right, drew in hundreds of people Oct. 26 for a carving contest, pie-eating, apple biting and lots more fun for the whole family.

“The kids had a ball,” said organizer Steve Duck of TIDES Group, adding there turnout was so good that during trick or treating at supporting shops along Beacon Avenue, he had to replenish their goodie bags three times.

“The stores were ecstatic. They said they’ve never had so much fun.”

Sherry Moir of Re/Max — a co-sponsor of the event and a member of the Toys For Tots campaign — added the entire evening created a positive atmosphere between the community and local youth.

“I was impressed with the youth who performed at the bandshell,” she said. “They were respectful and it was great to hear the area full of younger music.”

The carved pumpkins are on display on Beacon pier. They were brought in by families who picked up a free pumpkin at Michell Farms, in exchange for a toy dropped off at the Mary Winspear Centre. Duck said they collected six bags of plush toys with more in bins at the Centre and at Re/Max.

“It is a start,” said Moir, adding there was less emphasis on collecting toys during Pumpkins on the Pier — it was more about getting the word out about Toys For Tots.

The campaign has begun in earnest and Moir encourages people to donate new toys for children in need at bins at the Mary Winspear Centre, Re/Max and more as they appear throughout the Peninsula. She added there are plans for other new events that will also link to Toys For Tots.

Parkland Secondary School’s foods class is planning a gingerbread house project, selling pre-made, undecorated gingerbread sets. LollyGobble, added Duck, will provide the decorations and people can enter the houses into a contest. PSS would keep the money from the kit sales and the Toys For Tots effort would benefit from the gingerbread house contest. Watch the News Review for more on this.

The Peninsula Panthers junior B hockey club hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss at their home game Friday, Dec. 13 at Panorama Recreation Centre. Moir added she has some other ideas on the go as well.

The goal, she said, is to raise as many toys as they can and have them wrapped for children and their families by early to mid-December.

“We have a lot of people willing to help,” Moir said. “And it’s not just about Christmas. There are kids who need our help 365 days of the year.”

Last year, Toys For Tots distributed around 900 toys. Moir said that only scratches the surface and encourages people who know of someone who could use a brighter holiday to contact Toys For Tots at info@secretsantas.ca.