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(Photos by Chandra Bodalia)

 

SANTA’S helpers from the Benevolent Brotherhood Society, the Ghirra family, the Co-operators Insurance agencies and Vancity Credit Union all pitched in to bring in a record-breaking 7,000-plus toys to Richmond’s Riverside Palace Hall last Saturday.  Generous people from across the Lower Mainland did their part for the annual Victor Ghirra toy drive to make sure there will be thousands of smiles on children’s faces on Christmas morning.

The true giving spirit of Victor Ghirra lives on as thousands of less fortunate children will have surprises tucked under the Christmas tree this year.  Michael, Bobby and Sanj Ghirra, Victor’s brothers were amazed at the turnout this year. “Victor’s spirit lives on, more and more people hear our brother’s story and they feel compelled to give.  We believe it is because Victor truly was such a generous, kind hearted person that it is a challenge to find anyone like him in this day and age,” they said.

Riverside Palace Hall was decorated with plenty of holiday cheer.  Santa Claus himself was on hand to take pictures with everyone in a photo booth.  There were festive kids’ activities and a bouncy castle as people from around the Lower Mainland made their way to drop off toys.  Guests were welcomed with treats as they made their drops and were assisted by energetic volunteers from the Ghirra family.

This year the toy drive received a huge boost from Canadian Property Stars who donated over 4,000 toys.  Canadian Property Stars’ Skyler Zanth and his colleagues heard about the toy drive and wanted to help: they brought five van loads of toys.

The annual toy drive dedicated to the man with a golden heart, Victor Ghirra, was able to help 10 charities this year, including Children’s Hospital, Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, Key Solutions Richmond Christmas Fund, GirlKIND Foundation, Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Helping Hands, Umoja Operation, Salvation Army Belkin House and a local Richmond elementary school for families in need.  The Benevolent Brotherhood Society (BBS) along with the Ghirra family, the Co-Operators Insurance branches and Vancity organized this successful toy drive.  This was the 7th annual Victor Ghirra Toy Drive. In the last seven years, over 18,650 toys have been collected.

The Co-operators Insurance district office donated $1,000 along with several activities spearheaded by the employees to raise funds to purchase toys.  “We had several employee driven fundraisers including jeans days, a Canucks’ hockey tickets raffle draw and general donations.  We hope to keep this generous spirit of giving every year for Victor’s toy drive,” says Joe Casciano, of the Co-operators Insurance.

Victor was involved in many charitable initiatives, but one charity that Victor was really touched by was the BC Children’s Hospital.  A heart warming story that depicts Victor’s character was when he would every Christmas, buy thousands of dollars of toys 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, which organization?”  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 found out that Victor 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.

“Every year we try to do better, we try to share Victor’s story so that we can make a difference in his memory.  This was our most successful year, being able to help 10 charities. It is important to us to help children not only in BC but abroad.  We were able to collect over 400 items for GirlKIND Foundation.  They help abandoned girls in India with the necessities in life.  It’s all about honouring Victor’s giving spirit and spreading the message of giving.  We’ve brought smiles to over 18,650 children so far through the toy drive and we’re looking forward to do more in 2014,” says Harvey Kooner of BBS.

For more information on how you can make a difference in next year’s toy drive, contact:  The Benevolent Brotherhood Society’s Harvey Kooner at 604-671-4180 or email hkooner@shaw.ca