Toys for Tots campaign to start with pumpkins

Organizers behind the annual Toys for Tots Christmas campaign on the Saanich Peninsula are getting started earlier this year

Organizers behind the annual Toys for Tots Christmas campaign on the Saanich Peninsula are getting started earlier this year and will get people into the spirit of the season this month.

Rob McMillan, owner of Canoe Cove Restaurant and driving force behind last year’s first Toys for Tots campaign, has teamed up with Steve Duck of the TIDES Group and will be hosting Pumpkins of the Pier on Saturday, Oct. 26.

From Oct. 19 to 26, people are being asked to bring donations of toys for children of all ages to the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. By dropping off their donation, folks will receive a voucher for a free pumpkin from Michell Farms (there’s a limited amount of vouchers, so get yours early). Duck says children and their families are encouraged to carve their pumpkins, get dressed up in their Halloween costumes and bring them to Beacon Park at 4 p.m. on Oct. 26. Pumpkins will be placed on a flat bed truck, where they will be judged by local sponsors and organizers, with prizes awarded in various age categories.

From 4 to 7 p.m. that afternoon, the park will be filling with Jack O’Lanterns while young musicians from Parkland Secondary School perform at the bandshell. There will be pie eating and apple-biting events. Duck said that between 4:40 and 5:30 p.m., youth and their families will be led along Beacon Avenue for some trick or treating at the sponsor businesses. Once the judging is complete, he said, there will be a Parade of Pumpkins from Beacon to the Bevan Pier, where they will be placed on hay bales (using LED lights, not candles) and left on display until Nov. 1.

The event kicks off the Toys for Tots Christmas drive a little earlier than last year, said McMillan. He added donations of toys and cash are already coming in. Collection boxes will be going up around the Peninsula soon, he added, including one at the Mary Winspear Centre.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” he said.

Last year, the effort brought in some 900 toys and most of them were given to families in need and to Jeneese Place through the local Lions Club.

The campaign is focused on helping people in need — or even those on the cusp — have a good holiday. In addition to toys, McMillan said the Peninsula Panthers hockey club donated their practice ice time at Panorama Rec. Centre to help get local youth on the ice for some exercise.

As sponsors step up with support and donations, McMillan said Toys for Tots is always looking for more volunteers to help with events and gift wrapping in December.

To learn more about Pumpkins on the Pier, visit www.TIDESgroup.com or call 250-999-2997.