Toys for Tots has become a familiar and heartwarming feature of the festive season in Bermuda. A popular fixture on the charitable calendar, it has provided Christmas delight for scores of struggling families over the past two decades and elicited tremendous support from islanders.

Managed by the Coalition for the Protection of Children (CPC) and supported by longtime partner HSBC Bermuda, Toys for Tots is celebrating its 20th year. With Bermuda suffering economic challenges after the pandemic’s devastating impact on many industries and the ongoing spike in the cost of living, seldom has there been a greater need for a holiday helping hand.

Kelly Hunt, executive director of the CPC, said more than 500 families would benefit from this year’s drive, which has set a target of 2,000 items.

“We are extremely grateful to HSBC and our community partners, as well as all the individuals who continue to support this initiative,” Ms Hunt said. “Twenty years of alleviating stress over the holiday period has had a tremendous impact on the families who have struggled to make ends meet.”  

The public are being asked to give new items only and drop them off at a number of collection points on the island during the campaign, which runs from Monday, November 21 through Friday, December 9. While toys bring great joy to children, Toys for Tots also seeks to collect a broad spectrum of items to relieve the burdens of families with children of a range of ages.

Those wishing to donate are asked to give new toys suitable for children aged zero to 12 and gift cards for teens aged 13 to 16. Diapers, toiletries or new clothing for babies are welcome, as well as vouchers for children’s clothing, school uniforms, utilities or groceries.

The drop-off locations are the three HSBC Bermuda branches (the Harbourview Centre, first floor, St. George’s and Somerset), People’s Pharmacy, Gorham’s Ltd., Price Rite (Pembroke and Warwick locations) and Arnold’s Discount Centre.

Toys for Tots welcomes applications from families in need of assistance. “Parents can self-refer or be referred by outside agencies,” Hunt said. “An intake process and financial need forms are part of the process.”

On the day the donations are handed out, Toys for Tots brings joy and relief to many families whose financial constraints mean Christmas is a particularly stressful time.

“We host a client party where there are treats, hampers and a meal, and the gifts are distributed the weekend before Christmas,” Hunt said. “It is a huge relief to parents, to have some support. Children are all smiles at this event, and they enjoy the day to its fullest extent.”

She believes that the positive impact of Toys for Tots goes beyond the donation recipients. “We love the idea of getting children across Bermuda involved in the spirit of giving which can help to instil the concept of philanthropy at a young age,” Hunt said. “This serves to have an impact on future generations.”

For the sixth successive year, HSBC Bermuda will make a donation to purchase approximately 150 grocery hampers and utility vouchers to support families in need over the holidays.

Judy Doidge, HSBC executive sponsor, said: “HSBC is proud to support the Coalition in one of the longest-running and impactful initiatives serving our community over the holidays. We are excited to be a part of this 20-year milestone that offers many families a bit of relief and cheer over the holidays.” 

Hunt added: “We could not do this drive without HSBC. They continue to be community partners that invest in Bermuda’s people, and we sincerely appreciate their support.”