The scene invoked winter images of Christmas but in a truly Toronto fashion.
Skaters glided across the ice surface of a trail behind Humber’s Lakeshore Campus while Christmas music played for excited guests, all huddled behind CTV Toronto weather anchor Tom Brown for a chance to be on live TV.
Despite the cold, Brown’s festive energy brought warm smiles to Etobicoke in his latest stop for Toy Mountain — a joint campaign with The Salvation Army that aims to give every child a present for the holidays.
In its 23rd year, they toured different regions in the Greater Toronto Area, collecting thousands of gifts in time for Christmas.
On Dec. 11, Colonel Samuel Smith Park became filled with new donations from the city’s west-end.
The buildup of toys became so large this year, over 23 local car dealerships provided dozens of trucks to carry all of it.
“It’s a lot of stuff to move,” said Sarah Virro, the production and events coordinator at CTV.
“At 7 p.m., the Salvation Army comes on site and they’ll pick up all the toys, take them back to the warehouse, check them, sort them and distribute them to local community ministries,” she said.
Rather than giving random toys to families, parents are able to come and choose the right gift for their child.
“They set up a store at the ministry, so parents who have qualified and registered for assistance can come in and shop for their children instead of just being handed a bag of random toys,” Virro said.
Ted Hogan, owner and general manager at Dixie Ford who is a sponsor for the toy drive, encourages their visitors to donate, with a chance to win one of their cars.
“It’s a fun thing to do at the dealership. It’s a good community thing, and it’s a good culture thing in your business, too,” said Hogan.
“Everyone sees you’re doing good things, and everyone gets involved a little bit,” he said.
The assistance from the local dealership goes back to 2009. Each year, trucks are decorated with the logos from CTV and The Salvation Army, increasing awareness for the campaign as it tours Toronto.
“It’s been a fantastic partnership,” said Jeff Robertson, a communications director for the Toronto Salvation Army.
“It’s a great way of knowing we have people surrounding those in need who want to get involved and give back, and it’s been fantastic” he said.
Robertson also believes the effort from businesses shows a dedication to fight economic issues surrounding their own neighbourhoods.
“They want to give back, and toys are a great way to say, ‘we care about kids,’” Robertson said.
“When there’s one-in-seven people in Canada dealing with poverty, we can give a toy that allows some stress to be relieved from the parents, they can focus on other things and other needs in the family so it’s great,” he said.
Toy Mountain’s outdoor events are also a chance for Brown to deliver his daily weather updates while boosting the campaign as a regular segment for the CTV News at Six newscast.
He’s perfected his signature rallying cry since he began his involvement with the toy drive.
Breathing in the thin winter air, Brown raises his voice, shouting “TOY…” as the crowd roars “…MOUNTAIN!”
The campaign began as a small item in CTV’s holiday programming in 1995, Brown said, but since he joined the newscast in 2009, he spent every December promoting Toy Mountain across the city.
“Over the years, it has grown,” he said. “I think 23 years ago when it started, it was a Public Service Announcement, you know, when you’re out doing your holiday shopping and pick up an extra toy.
“It has grown into a mountain as we know it today,” Brown said.
Showcasing the donations, he said the sheer size of the mountain measures a need to help those less fortunate.
“When you can get a community to come together so that no one is forgotten on Christmas morning, that’s what the mountain is,” Brown said.
“It’s a mountain of Christmas spirit. It’s a mountain of joy,” he said. “The toy might be the symbol, but the act of giving is truly what this campaign is about.”