York Regional Police wants you to be a holiday hero and support its annual holiday charity drive running until Dec. 16.
The Holiday Heroes campaign held its formal kickoff at the Newmarket Soccer Club Nov. 19, with dozens of community representatives gathering donations and a friendly soccer game. The annual event collects food and toy donations for needy families in partnership with the Salvation Army and Victim Services of York Region.
York Regional Police special events coordinator Carrie Rutledge said the need is larger than ever.
“We are finding there is a greater need in the request for food, with the growing costs,” she said. “We always need toys for the tweens and young children. This year, we will be helping over 2,500 families, which includes more than 4,000 children.”
The program launched 26 years ago, helping thousands of people in need with the support of community groups. Dozens of people attended the launch event with plenty of food and toy donations.
The Newmarket Soccer Club has become a major local launch partner. Soccer club president Petra Fera said it began when a club she managed wanted to do a food drive for the holiday season, and it just grew in magnitude over the past four years. Now, all of the club's teams participate with the incentive of free field time and a pizza party.
“Every year, it just gets bigger and better with more donations and more people,” she said. “We are a very strong as a community partner and we want to continue to work on our community relationships.”
Town and police officials, along with sponsors, were on hand for the official launch event. Mayor John Taylor said it is an incredible event with a lot of momentum.
“If we take pride in being a community that cares, this is what we’re going to look like, here today,” he said. “If we’re a community that cares, we’re just not going to accept that some families and some kids aren’t going to have enough to eat over the holiday season."
Deputy police chief Alvaro Almeida said they are thankful for the soccer club’s continued support.
“This program is truly making a difference, and the donations you make today go directly to ensuring needy families enjoy a happy holiday season, an experience that everyone deserves.”
The event also featured a friendly soccer game between the York Regional Police and coaches and staff from the Newmarket Soccer Club. It is something both organizations look forward to, Fera said.
“We have a lot of kids coming out to cheer on our staff and our coaches. Hopefully, they’re going to represent us well,” she said.
You can donate at any police station in York Region, including Newmarket’s at 429 Harry Walker Parkway. You can also donate at any of the campaign events or online at yrp.ca/hhdonate.
“We really appreciate all donations that everybody makes. Every little bit counts,” Rutledge said. “We look forward to everyone being a holiday hero.”