“When you give to less fortunate children it not only makes them happy at Christmas but it also makes you feel great,” said 12-year-old Paige MacLellan.
Two young sisters Paige and 10 year old Katelyn, along with their parents Mark and Stacey MacLellan, are helping to bring Christmas toys to families in need by collecting for The Salvation Army Toy Mountain through St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Kars.
The idea came together five years ago after the girls saw some of their friends donate birthday money to an animal protection group.
Mark came upon The Salvation Army Toy Mountain campaign online and suggested to the girls they didn’t need so many toys, and should ask their guests to donate them to The Salvation Army Toy Mountain instead.
“I’ve always tried to guide them but it’s never been about pressure. It had to be their choice,” said Mark, “There have been rewards and benefits however, I would tell the girls if they invite guests to donate toys to The Salvation Army they could invite the whole class, otherwise the party will be limited to a few friends.”
St. Andrew’s Minister Susan Clarke says she and the congregation were quick to support the idea.
“The congregation was so impressed that children so young would be so conscientious and aware of the world around them,” she said.
The MacLellan family also provide lunch for the congregation on a Sunday in December to say thank you and promote the toy drive.
“For me it’s all about giving back and also the enjoyment of making the lunch for the congregation with the girls. We spend the day teaching them how to make soups and French bread. I hope those are the memories they will carry with them,” said Mark.
Over the last five years the girls have collected nearly 600 toys for The Salvation Army Toy Mountain campaign and about 900 dollars in cash donations.
“The more children know about the world the better, and it’s important for them to know they can make a difference. Children are generally open to being helpful and kind; it comes with having an open heart,” said Reverend Clarke, “We can learn a lot from them.”
“If kids are given the opportunity and guidance I believe they make the generous choice,” Mark smiled, “My hope is that as we guide them through to adulthood they will continue to be very generous people.”
“It’s also interesting to see how it has snowballed among the girls’ friends. We have seen over the past few years a lot of them asking for donations at their parties too,” added Stacey.
Now that the toy collection at St. Andrew’s has become a tradition, the MacLellan family says they want to take their campaign to the next level.
“Next year we might go to another church and provide lunch and promote the idea of collecting toys for The Salvation Army’s Toy Mountain. We’ll see if we can plant seeds and encourage other churches to start their own traditions,” said Mark.
“The toy drive has grown a lot over the last five years. I think our parents are proud of us,” says Paige.
“I think they are happy we are giving back to people that don’t have as much,” added Katelyn.
Toys can still be dropped off at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Kars until December 16th, 2012.
The Salvation Army is expected to provide 16,000 children in the Ottawa region with toys this Christmas.