LABRADOR WEST, N.L.
When the Roger Lyons Memorial Toys for Joys fundraiser started off 26 years ago, no one involved would have guessed it would still be going or have been as successful as it has been.
One of the event founders, Fred Fewer, is stepping away this year and said it’s a strange experience for him.
“It will be weird to not be a part of it this year,” he told The Aurora in a phone interview from his home in Nova Scotia. “It’s been a part of my life for so long.”
Fewer, who has been the chairperson for the event since 2002, was a member of the band, 6 Pack, that decided to put off the event all those years ago to raise money to help get Christmas toys for children who aren’t as fortunate.
“It was a big downturn in the economy then and a lot of people were hurting,” he said. “The band got together and started talking about how we could give back. Then this idea came up to help families with Christmas. And it’s grown into what it is today.”
Roger Lyons, the singer for the band, passed away in 2002 and the event was named in his honour.
Fewer was the last original member of the band still involved and this will be the first year he’s missed it. He said when they started it was just another fundraiser that the band was involved in, one of many over the years.
“That first year we raised about $2,500 or so,” he said. “Last year it was around $30,000. We didn’t think it would ever get to where is now, much less last this long.”
Fewer said they raised so much money they ended up expanding the mandate beyond Christmas and also provide funds to help people who need to travel for medical reasons.
He said the community deserves the accolades, since they step up every year to help.
“The people of Lab West, all you have to do is give them a reason to donate and they’re there,” he said. “Without the people the Toys for Joys would never have lasted this long.”
When he and long-time board member Bill Abbott were deciding to step away from the project this year they weren’t sure if the event would keep going, but others stepped forward to fill their roles.
“It’s been harder the last few years, where I don’t live there anymore, organizing things and keeping it up,” he said. “But people stepped up and want to keep it going.”
He said it’s touching to see people want to keep it going for the kids, as it can have a real impact.
Fewer said a few years ago he was out at businesses collecting donations and the person behind the counter asked if he could shake his hand.
“I asked why and the guy told me that he had been down on his luck the year before that and got laid off,” he said. “He didn’t have any cash and on Christmas Eve they were trying to scrape together some gifts for their three kids and a knock came on the door.”
At the door were volunteers from Toys for Joys with toys for the kids. He said the man volunteered with them the following year.
“This is real, it’s real people and real issues,” he said. “To have a child wake up and have a gift and for me to know I was a part of that makes me feel good.”
This year’s Toys for Joys event will be held at the Legion in Labrador City on Nov. 24.