THUNDER BAY - With the Christmas season just around the corner, an important delivery is being prepared in the city of Thunder Bay, courtesy of several local and national organizations.
On Friday, a Canadian Forces C-130 Hercules landed at the Thunder Bay International Airport filled with gifts as part of the Toys for the North 2022 campaign to send gifts to children and youth in remote First Nation communities across Northwestern Ontario.
“We are very thrilled. We’ve had numerous requests for toys this year,” said Karen Matson, director of marketing and community relations North Star Air.
“We’ve targeted three communities we are visiting the week of Dec. 12 to 16 that will be Poplar Hill First Nation, Sachigo Lake First Nation, and Webequie First Nation. We are excited to be going in. We will be bringing Santa with us again and we will be celebrating with the communities.”
The Toys for the North campaign was started 12 years ago by the RCMP. Originally local officers would transport the toys up north with RCMP vehicles, but eight years ago, now retired RCMP Staff Sgt. Normand Roy created a partnership with Gardewine Group and North Star Air to help with the transportation.
“This has been going on for 10 years now and every year we see an increase in the generosity of corporate donors and the work that goes into it from North Star Air and Gardewine is just incredible,” said RCMP Cpl. Darryl Waruk. “They are really the ones doing the bulk of the lifting here.”
This year, 12 pallets were unloaded from the Hercules, equalling more than 23,000 toys. The toys were collected across the province by the Canadian Toy Association and RCMP.
“The RCMP, Gardewine, and North Star, we are thrilled that we can be distributing these toys on behalf of the Canadian Toy Association. We’ve had so many donors from near and far, locally in Thunder Bay,” Matson said.
“It’s a big effort on the part of everybody and over the years it has grown tremendously. I received an email two days ago saying be prepared because we’ve got almost double the amount of toys we are sending up this week that we had last year. People are in the giving mode and we love it and we are so appreciative of everyone involved.”
“It’s a feel-good event to be a part of,” Warruk added. “The private sector, the Canadian forces, the RCMP coming together to bring some Christmas joy to the kids up north in remote areas where they don’t have large shopping centres to go to.”
The toys will be transported to the Gardewine warehouse where they will be sorted by age group from zero to 12-years-old. This year, the RCMP also did a fundraising event to raise money to create teen packs for youth in the communities.
After the toys have been sorted, they will be transported to Sioux Lookout and other regional hubs and then flown into the communities by North Star Air along with Santa to help bring a smile not just to all the children’s faces, but everyone involved.
“When we do go up to the north it’s very rewarding to hand these toys out to the children and see the joy it brings them and the goodwill to the entire community,” Warruk said.