Gifts under the Christmas tree. Photo by Sigismund von Dobschütz/Wikimedia Commons

Toy drives target teens

By 
  • December 6, 2013

Christmas is the peak toy drive season and charity organizations are urging Canadians to remember teens when they give this holiday season. Teens are often forgotten when shoppers hunt for items to donate.

The Salvation Army, an international Christian organization, has run Toy Mountain in Canada for 18 years, collecting Christmas gifts for needy families with the help of its 400 ministry units nationwide.

People want to give, support families in need and provide toys for kids to open on Christmas morning, said Andrew Burditt, divisional secretary for public relations and development with the Salvation Army’s Ontario Central East Division.

“Kids having that experience, being able to experience that joy is crucial,” he said. “But if I sent you to the mall... and said, ‘Hey, I need you to buy some toys for a child,’ you would probably come back with something for a child between the ages of six and 11.”

He adds that people find it difficult to buy for teens, and so the Salvation Army emphasizes gifts for teens during their campaign.

Of the 150,000 items the Salvation Army hopes to collect during Toy Mountain, the goal is to collect 10,000 items for teens ages 14 to 17.

On the parish level, Mary Bertani from the Catholic Marriage Tribunal in the archdiocese of Toronto chose to focus on teens for her church’s gift drive because “they’re very often forgotten” since people see them as “grown.” Bertani is one of the organizer’s for the St. Paul’s Basilica drive, which has served low income families for 30 years.

On a municipal level, the Yonge Street Mission, a not-for-profit Christian organization in Toronto, has been running a Christmas market for 20 years. The mission has registered almost 900 low-income families where parents come and pick toys for their kids, said Anne Keyes, the mission’s development associate.

“The vast majority are toys donated for the younger kids. And so that’s why we like to have gift cards available to give out to the families,” she said. “The kids love to choose and it makes them feel like they’re more grown up if they can go off with the gift card and pick out something for themselves.”

Yonge Street Mission has a wish list where it suggests gifts for two different age groups: new toys for up to age 12 and gift cards for ages 13 to 17. According to the list, favourite gift cards come from Chapters-Indigo, Forever 21, H&M, LIDS, Foot Locker, movies and coffee shops, Shoppers Drug Mart, Hudson’s Bay Company, HMV and iTunes and Cadillac Fairview gift cards to shop at the Eaton Centre.

Keyes cites gift cards for Chapters-Indigo as fitting for Yonge Street Mission’s promotion of literacy. She also says that the teens like Shoppers Drug Mart for its grooming products.

Bertani’s gift ideas include sweaters, socks, scarves, gloves, hats, movie passes, watches and personal care products.

Burditt adds that credit card gift cards are also a practical option, but people can donate financially if they do not want to purchase a specific item.

“We really truly are grateful for the fact that people want to contribute,” he said.

He wants donators to know that it’s not the Salvation Army they’re contributing to, but “they’re contributing to and assisting and supporting the people that the Salvation Army serves,” he said. “We are a conduit. We are motivated to want to help everybody regardless of who they are or where they come from. And we’re grateful that Canadians donate enough to allow us to do so.”

For more information, visit salvationarmy.ca and ysm.ca or call St.Paul’s Basilica at (416) 364-7588.

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