South Vancouver Island Rangers toy drive co-ordinator Greg Gilbert (left) and helper Neil Sutherland unload a van full of toys.

Load of toys comes just in time for Hamper Fund in Langford

Local groups look to put a smile on a child’s face for Christmas morning

No child should go without a toy to open on Christmas morning, at least that’s the belief of the Westshore Christmas Hamper toy room volunteers and the South Vancouver Island Rangers.

Every year the Rangers arrive just in time to help fill the toy room and help make children’s dreams come true, said toy room co-ordinator, Karen Birtwistle.

“Their efforts are amazing and selfless,” she said.

This year was no exception and on Saturday, members of the Langford-based outdoor recreation club dropped off a load of toys Birtwistle said was big enough to overfill 10 shopping carts and enough to finish stocking the shelves in time for the hamper distribution, which began on Monday.

“I don’t like to see kids go without … We would do more if we could,” said Greg Gilbert, a Rangers board director who’s been co-ordinating the club’s toy drive for over a decade. “Each year it gets a little bigger.”

Some years the club starts collecting at the beginning of October; some years it starts a little later. Gilbert joked that the timing usually comes down to when he has time to start harassing fellow members. He likes to give them a hard time about spending money on rifles, so they’ll generally donate a few extra dollars for toys.

Gilbert’s daughter volunteers to take the money raised and turn it into toys. “She gets her girlfriends together and they go shopping,” he said. “They try to make the dollars stretch.”

The Rangers’ generosity can be overwhelming. One club member handed Gilbert a large cash donation to purchase toys, then showed up the next day with several toys in hand as well.

“That’s the kind of people Rangers are,” he said. “This year they really came together.”

The Rangers are a private club, located in Langford since 1947. It was originally created after WWII by retiring local members of the disbanded Pacific Coast Militia Rangers and begun as an emergency service. Now with a 130 members (and a wait list to join) the group is a social, trap and skeet shooting club that focuses on outdoor recreation.

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