Stuff-the-Bus toy drive organizers ‘overwhelmed’ by support

TTC employee Chris Nottbeck spent much of a blustery Dec. 7 driving.

Road conditions were terrible and the commute was slow as drivers braced themselves for an overnight blizzard.

Nottbeck, however, couldn’t have been happier to be out on the road.

In his trunk and backseat sat several boxes bursting with new toys, which will soon find themselves in the anxious hands of underprivileged children on Christmas morning.

“I was happy that I had to take the toys down to Birchmount — we’ve had so many toys come in,” Nottbeck said. “It’s great to see all these toys.”

Nottbeck is one of dozens of volunteers who took part in the TTC’s annual Stuff-the-Bus campaign, which urges Christmas shoppers to drop off a toy at TTC buses parked in front of Wal-Mart stores across the city.

“All the toys are going up to Newmarket to the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness (CCFAA),” Nottbeck said inside the bus in front of the Wal-Mart at 799 Milner Ave. Surrounding him were more than a dozen boxes of toys. The bus had already been unloaded once that morning.

“We’ve really been overwhelmed with all the support we’re getting this year,” said event organizer Kevin Kane.

He said the event began on a much smaller scale in 2005.

“When I first started this thing, I just had a few boxes in the back of my car,” Kane told an applauding audience at the TTC’s Birchmount garage Monday morning. “Now we’ve surpassed our goal of $50,000 worth of toys.”

This year’s total nearly tripled the outcome of last year’s drive.

“Next year we will be setting our sights even higher,” Kane said.

The CCFAA is based in Newmarket, but has received strong support from Toronto during fundraisers and toy drives like Stuff-the-Bus.

“Wal-Mart has been helpful, Q107 does advertising, the TTC donates the bus and all sorts of volunteers,” said CCFAA president Ellen Campbell. “It’s been so great every year.”

Campbell, who founded the charity in 1993, is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

“This drive is to promote awareness,” she said. “It’s important that people help out year-round and don’t forget about these children after Christmas.”

Five of the bus drop-off locations were in Scarborough, including one outside the Birchmount garage at 400 Danforth Rd., which, Kane said, “was completely packed this morning”.

“I don’t often get to see the kids, but I see the mothers,” Campbell said. “They always come in so amazed. ‘I can just pick any toy?’ they always say.

“And it’s not just one toy. They can take home a few toys. They always leave so happy.”