Teen's goal is 1,000 gifts for annual charity toy drive

One committed teenager collects hundreds of toys and gifts for children in low-income families each year.

Leah Smith has been collecting gifts for low-income families since Grade 8

Leah Smith's Christmas toy drive collected 700 items last year for children and teenagers from low-income families. (Julie Smith)

 Victoria resident Leah Smith is just 16 but she's already played Secret Santa to thousands of kids.

Smith will hold her fifth annual sidewalk toy drive Dec. 16 and 17 in front of the drug store in Oak Bay Village.

She delivers the donated items to the Salvation Army Stan Hagen Centre for Families for redistribution because it is one of the few organizations that accept gently used items as well as new ones.

"They set up a pop-up toy shop of sorts where parents can make an appointment and go in and pick out different toys and items for their kids and their family for Christmas, which I think is really cool," Smith said.

"It's generally someone who is not able to afford to buy presents for their family," she said. "That way everyone can have a bit of a brighter holiday season."

Smith, who's in Grade 11 at Oak Bay High School, has held the toy drive for the last four years. 

Last year Smith's toy drive collected 700 gifts for children and teens in low-income families. This year she hopes the haul will reach 1,000.

Gift cards, clothes needed for teens 

 All toy donations are welcome but gifts for teens, such as gift cards or clothing, are especially needed, she said. "Those are not the first ones that you think of when you think of a toy drive."

Smith enjoys the feeling of doing something to benefit the community, she said, as well as "breaking the stereotype that teens are just thinking about themselves."

Smith will set up a table to receive toy donations on Oak Bay Avenue outside the Pharmasave drug store on Dec. 16 and 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.