They came by the hundreds to the Penticton Lakeside Resort bearing gifts for the annual Toys for Tots to Teens breakfast.
In fact, according to co-ordinator Deborah Silk over 1,000 people attended the two-hour event on Dec. 2 with a special gifts for local kids who will likely receive very little else, if anything, for Christmas this year.
Among those attending was Rylee Simmonds, 3, who was with her grandparents and carrying a large stuffed cuddly dog she brought to put under the tree.
“We want her to know that it is very important for to give to other people because they may not be as fortunate as we are,” said her grandmother Judi Thompson before heading into the auditorium.
“We’re here to brings toys for the children because they deserve it and this is the season of giving and we’re showing our granddaughter this is the thing to do. “I don’t think she knows quite yet what it’s all about but she’s slowly figuring it out.”
According to co-ordinator of the event Deborah Silk, this year’s breakfast was one of the most successful in recent memory. The program has been running now for over two decades.
“This is probably the happiest year I’ve had,” said Silk afterwards. “And believe it or not, we’re almost short gifts for babies and that’s the first time. Usually we’re having to ask for more gifts for teenagers.”
She estimated about 1,600 gifts including over 400 for the older kids.
“I think there is a growing need. I think all the organizations are really feeling the crunch,” said Silk.
Hundreds of volunteers ranging from newly-elected Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and Chief Jonathan Kruger of the Penticton Indian Band, Miss Penticton royalty, police, fire and Penticton Vees hockey team helped out during the morning.
Skaha Ford also donated $1,000 and once again Canadian Tire donated a large number of gifts to be included in the Salvation Army Christmas gift baskets.
Other beneficiaries include the South Okanagan Women in Need Society, Dragonfly Pond, Penticton and District Community Resources and the Ministry of Children and Families. As well this year some gifts went to the Okanagan Falls Helping Hands organization.
“We are just so grateful to everyone who donated toys, their time and everything else to make this year’s event so successful,” said Silk.