For a seventh year, Oak Bay’s Leah Smith will run her toy drive to benefit children from families in challenging situations.
This year will be different, as the parliamentary page won’t return from Ottawa until Dec. 17. Instead of setting up shop on Oak Bay Avenue for a weekend, Smith is offering to pick up donations from around town on Dec. 18. However, the cause remains the same and will benefit the Stan Hagen Centre for Families.
It’s part of a busy December for the first-year student at the University of Ottawa who finished her exams this week and can focus her last week on being a page in the House of Commons. Just a few weeks ago she attended the swearing-in for Justin Trudeau and dozens of other MPs post-election.
“I want to do it again despite the crazy experience that moving [to Ottawa] has been,” Smith said. “I want to keep my roots.”
As Smith has grown so has the toy drive she started as Grade 6 student (it didn’t fare so well with about five toys, but it took off when she tried again in Grade 8).
The teenager isn’t expecting to exceed 1,000 toys this time, though she has in the past. The Stan Hagen Centre for Families opens a Pop-Up Toy Shop for parents and guardians in socio-economic distress who can discreetly visit and select gifts for their children.
“I’ve scaled it down and changed my expectations, and put it on a day on that’s hopefully easier [to get around],” Smith said.
Anyone with donations can email Smith at Leahstoydrive@gmail.com to arrange a pickup by her or a fellow elf (that includes leaving the toy in front of your home or arranging another way).
Toys should be new or gently used.
“If you’re not sure just ask yourself if you would be happy getting it as a gift,” Smith said.
Until she returns, Smith will focus on her page work. With the election, Smith gets a different page experience than most. The first few weeks were all behind the scenes with election administration.
She was there for the Trudeau swearing-in and in attending many others has seen the personable side, and the family side, of a lot of MPs.
She finally got her first day in the House of Commons after it re-started on Dec. 5. Seeing all the members in the house, all major leaders working, is exciting and memorable, she said.
“Today, for example, it’s question period and it’s super busy and super exciting,” Smith said. “Members are giving speeches, some of them are things I’m studying in school right now [International Development and Globalization].”