In a non-COVID-19 world, there would have been hundreds of motorcycle riders winding through the streets of Edmonton with toys strapped to the back of their bikes in support of 630 CHED Santas Anonymous next weekend.
Due to restrictions around gatherings in Alberta because of the novel coronavirus, that event will not happen this year. Instead, Santas is hosting a drive-thru toy drive and is encouraging vehicles of all types to swing through with a new, unwrapped toy.
“Anybody can come this time,” executive director Lana Nordlund said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re driving or riding because you could be on a bicycle.”
On top of the toy run, the annual Gray Draeger Memorial Golf Tournament that supports Santas had to be cancelled, as well as the toy collection the Edmonton football team does every year, and the organization’s involvement in other events like Colour Me Rad.
“We thought, well, can we do anything? And so before the snow starts to fly and the sun is still shining, we decided to do a drive-through drop off.”
On Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Santas will be accepting donations at its depot in the Jerry Forbes Centre for Community Spirit at 12122 68 Street.
There will be designated spots for people to park and, to honour physical distancing, people donating will be dropping their own toys in the bins. Those coming to donate are asked to wear masks and there will be volunteers on hand accepting monetary donations from either cash or credit card as well.
“This year, with so many people out of out of work and not knowing what’s going to happen, where their next paycheck is going to come from and so on and so forth, we need to be prepared,” Nordlund said.
The ask of Santas has grown over the last few years and Nordlund expects it to be even higher this year. While she says toy donations are always welcome, the charity can make monetary donations go further than a person shopping at the mall can.
“Then we can purchase exactly what we want,” Nordland said.
Santas collects donations for kids from infant to 12 years old, but finds the need for donations for those older kids is always higher than other age groups. Things like board games, LEGO, craft kids, science kits are good ideas for the older kids, Nordlund said. Santas asks that the donations don’t need a computer or Internet to work, as it can’t be guaranteed the kids receiving those toys will have those items.
Books are also an in demand item as every gift package that goes out will include a book.
One thing Santas definitely won’t need this year is stuffed animals. Every year, thousands of teddies are tossed onto the ice at one Edmonton Oil Kings game. Last year’s game was only a week or so before delivery day, so the charity still has the majority of the teddies from last year to give out this year.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making a special trip from the North Pole for the toy drive as well, but people are asked to not take photos with the couple.
Changes to the 2020 campaign
While details are still being finalized, Nordlund says those used to volunteering for Santas will see some changes in the 2020 campaign.
In an effort to get everything done while maintaining physical distancing, Nordlund said the campaign will get started earlier this year. There will still be opportunities for groups to come in and volunteer, but those groups will be smaller.
The toys will also sit in Santas Depot for a few days before volunteers sort them.
“We’re trying to take as many precautions as possible to keep everybody safe and mitigate and have less opportunity that we’re going to be shut down because Santa is essential.”
Another change will be Santas delivery day. After going down to one day for all deliveries last year, this year deliveries will be done over two days again. The charity is working out a by appointment system for pickup for delivery drivers.
Nordlund said Santas website and social media will be updated as all those plans are finalized.