Leah Smith focuses on her peers for this year’s toy drive on Oak Bay Avenue.
The 15-year-old returns to a perch under the Pharmasave awning for a second year, gathering toys for the Salvation Army’s Stan Hagen Centre for Families.
“Last year it was close to 500 (toys) which was more than I expected and more than we had room for in the house actually,” she said with a laugh.
This year she hopes to reach or surpass that milestone. After touring the Stan Hagen toy store last year after her donation, the Grade 10 student’s focus shifts to teens this year.
“It was really nice to see how much new toys there were,” she said. “The teen department though was really lacking. So that’s going to be my focus this year.”
She hopes to build on the toy haul for other ages with some older gifts, such as sports equipment or room decor.
“They suggested gift cards, it gives (teens) a sense of independence and that’s good,” Leah said.
For Christmas, the Stan Hagen Centre For Families holds a pop-up toy shop and parents who can’t afford presents sign up and are able choose gifts for each child.
“It felt like going into Santa’s workshop. It was like a real toy store,” Leah said, noting there were even decorations and shopping baskets. “It gave dignity to the parents which is very important.”
More than 800 parents registered last year.
“I like this cause because it’s not something everybody knows about but they do really good work,” Leah said.
She’ll collect toys in front of Pharmasave on Oak Bay Avenue from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11.