11th Annual Victor Ghirra Toy Drive collects over 3,500 toys

First three photos by SUKHWANT SINGH DHILLON

FRIENDS, family and strangers from across the Lower Mainland flocked to Richmond to bring in hundreds of new toys for this year’s Victor Ghirra toy drive. Victor’s generous spirit continues to bring people together.

More than 3,500 toys were collected with the help of the Benevolent Brotherhood Society, the Ghirra family, the Co-operators Insurance agencies and Vancity Credit Union.

In dedication to Victor, this toy drive continues to bring Christmas cheer to thousands of boys and girls. Bobby Ghirra, Victor’s brother, said: “Eleven years later, Victor’s impact can still be felt through his generous spirit. He motivates us to give with our hearts.”

Riverside Palace Banquet Hall was decorated for the holiday season, which had a photo booth with Santa and tasty treats for everyone to enjoy as toys were being dropped off.

Victor was involved in many charitable initiatives, but one charity that Victor was really touched by was BC Children’s Hospital. A heartwarming story that depicted Victor’s character was how he would buy thousands of dollars worth of toys every Christmas and go to Children’s Hospital to donate them to needy children. When they would ask, “Who are you and where are these toys from?” Victor would simply reply, “It doesn’t matter who I am or where I am from, these toys are for the kids and that’s all you need to know.”

It was later found that Victor had made trips to the hospital for over a dozen years. Victor was just being Victor, he didn’t tell anyone what he was up to.

Joe Casciano, Associate Recruiting Manager with the Co-operators, said: “The Co-operators District and Agency staff is very happy to once again support the toy drive. This year we raised over $650 through employee raffles and donations. We want to continue sharing Victor’s story of giving and help bring smiles to those in need.”

North Vancouver’s finest, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), helped collect toys at their office when a few officers heard about Victor’s story. They were able to collect several boxes full of toys for the drive. Not only do they serve and protect our communities but they also give from the heart.

Over in Richmond, once again the toy drive received support from the Richmond Sunrise Rotary Club. The club’s Kal Mahal said: “It is our pleasure to give a donation of $3,000 to this group that is helping hundreds of families have a brighter holiday season. It’s just a Christmas wonderful tradition in our community and we’re here proud to support it.”

The annual toy drive dedicated to Victor was able to help 16 good causes this year: Children’s Hospital, Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, Key Solutions, Richmond Christmas Fund, Options BC, Canuck Place, Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association, Nightshift Ministries – Care Centre, SINAG – Society of Indigenous Network Above Ground, North Shore Family Services – Christmas Bureau, Harmony House, Surrey Christmas Bureau and three local schools with families in need. More than 33,150 toys have been collected over the past 11 years in memory of Victor.

This year’s toy drive also looked to fulfill the wish list for two boys: Caleb and Ryan of Surrey whose family recently lost all their belongings in a house fire. This left a family of four who had already bought Christmas gifts for the boys, with nothing. Caleb, aged 6, has low functioning autism which requires him to have full time care from one parent. Ryan, aged 12, has had a rare heart condition since birth. The family’s friends have created a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/lela-and-family-emergency-fund

Harvey Kooner of BBS – founder of the toy drive – said: “It is a pleasure coordinating efforts to help more and more good causes over 11 years. Sometimes folks think that a box of toys collected won’t make a difference, but when we combine our efforts with so many kind-hearted people wanting to make a difference, we can have an impact on thousands of lives. This year’s efforts will help 16 great causes and we’ll strive to do more in 2018.”

For more information on how you can make a difference with next year’s toy drive, contact Harvey Kooner at 604-671-4180 or harveykooner1@gmail.com.

(Other photos by Harvey Kooner)