Local business donates toy drive collection and profits to Tikinagan

Posted: December 18th, 2017

The Red Apple store in Sioux Lookout hosted a toy drive this December, collecting donations of toys and funds for Tikinagan Child and Family Services.

“Red Apple approached us to ask if we would be interested in being the local charity to receive these gifts and we were blown away by their generosity,” says Thelma Morris, Executive Director of Tikinagan.

Over a period of approximately two weeks, the store collected donations from customers and set them aside. They slowly filled boxes and by December 13 had a change-room full of toys for children ages 0-18. As part of the toy drive, they hosted a Fill a Sleigh event on Saturday, December 9. Throughout the day, customers continued to donate toys and money, and in addition Red Apple donated 10% of all toy sales to the agency.

During the Fill a Sleigh event, Tikinagan staff volunteers came out to talk with customers and offer hot drinks and treats. Joining Tikinagan staff were volunteers from Northwest EMS (Kenora District Services Board land ambulance). The Northwest EMS volunteers parked an ambulance outside of the store and used sirens to get attention and draw people in.

Not only did shoppers give generously, but many Tikinagan employees were spotted in the store shopping for the toy drive. Additionally, the staff volunteers from Tikinagan and Northwest EMS made sure they participated in filling the sleigh. Not only were toys for young children piled into the make-shift sleigh (a very festive shopping cart parked near the store entrance), but there were items for teenagers such as headphones, electronics, makeup and accessories.

“I’d like to thank all of our staff who helped make this toy drive happen, whether behind the scenes or coming out to volunteer- it was all appreciated,” says Clara Young, Director of Administration and Finance at Tikinagan. “We also have to thank the very kind volunteers from Northwest EMS- their support and tireless efforts really helped make the day memorable.”

When everything was tallied up, there was approximately $5000 worth of toys, over $300 from the 10% donation and an additional $300 just from cash donations.

“We set a goal of $6000 for this toy drive and we were beyond excited that we reached that goal,” says store manager Ryan Peake. “Thank you to Tikinagan for receiving the donations and being a part of this!”

The donations didn’t stop with the generous shoppers at Red Apple. Tikinagan was contacted by the Salvation Army volunteers in Sioux Lookout who are making a $500 donation in memory of a volunteer, Deacon Dave Dupuis, who recently passed away. Additionally, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) made a donation in the amount of $1000. The cash donations will be used to purchase toys.

Tikinagan is collecting the toys donations and working hard to wrap everything up. In addition to toys being provided to agency operated homes, toys will also be set aside for children coming into care during the holiday season. Tikinagan is also connecting with Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) to donate toys to all children in and coming through Sioux Lookout this holiday season.

Young explains that Tikinagan staff will wrap and label gifts by age groups, such as ‘girl, age 5-7’ or ‘boy age 13-15’ so that when staff from Tikinagan, SLMHC or SLFNHA need at gift for a child it will be easy to ensure they get something age appropriate.

“It can be a very hard time of year for many, so these toys will truly help make Christmas special for many children and youth,” says Morris. “Tikinagan has funding for gifts for children in foster homes, but there is always a challenge to make sure children coming into care get something and feel special during a challenging time for their family. We also have children in our agency operated homes (AOHs), which are more short-term while we work to return children to their families or find a foster home. When children leave at AOH, we know they take toys with them that they connected to, and we want them to of course. So having new toys there for children coming in makes it that much easier to create a safe and healthy environment for them.”

Morris added that any extra toys leftover from the holiday season will be used for the AOH and in situations where a child coming into care might not have anything with them.

“This toy drive keeps Christmas with us all through the year and we are very grateful for all of the donations from customers at Red Apple, NAN and the Salvation Army. We are also grateful for the hard work by Red Apple staff and management, Tikinagan staff and Northwest EMS staff,” says Morris.