By Tina Comeau
Major Peter Rowe was all smiles as looked through bag after bag of donated toys.
He knows how special, and needed, these and other donated toys are.
Major Rowe was at the Mariners Centre on Dec. 16, not to watch the junior A Mariners play hockey, but rather to thank them for a toy drive that took place at their Dec. 13 and 14 home games.
And, of course, to collect the toy donations.
Hockey fans, Mariners players and team staff donated toys to the drive.
“They have at least two, maybe three bags more than last year so obviously people are supporting the team, indirectly, and supporting the Salvation Army at the same time,” Major Rowe said.
Like he had mentioned the year before when the Mariners hockey team held a similar toy drive, Major Rowe said these types of generic toy drives are very important to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper Program, which aids needy families each year over the holidays.
“We have around 400 children that we provide toys for every year,” he says, noting that the tag program the Salvation Army runs through its Christmas trees – where people take a tag that identifies the gender and age of a child in need of a toy – has been lagging behind the past couple of years.
“I’m not sure if the interest is dropping or it’s just that the economy is to that point where people don’t have the money,” he says. “So having the generic toy drives brings in bulk toys at one time and we’re able to get them into the bags that we have for the children.”
Major Rowe says in any given year the Salvation Army, as it reaches the end of the Hamper campaign, needs top-up toys for at least 50 per cent of the packages going out to families.
Hearing Major Rowe speak about the need makes this effort even more important, say members of the Mariners team.
“I think it’s great that we’re doing something in the community to help out after everything they do for us,” says Mariners captain Colin Campbell of Cape Breton.
His teammate Conner Dea of Alberta concurs.
“It’s all about giving back,” he says. “Everyone comes out here to support us, so we can give back to the community and give toys to the kids who otherwise wouldn’t have them on Christmas.”