436 Transport Squadron helps deliver toys to children in the North

News Article / December 21, 2017

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By Makala Chapman

More than 2,000 toys, a CC-130J Hercules from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were the ingredients that will help make Christmas special for children living in some of Canada’s most northern communities.

“Toys for the North” is an annual tradition that is now in its eighth year. As in past years, the RCMP spent more than six months collecting toys from corporate sponsors such as Crayola, Lego and Hasbro.

Once the toys were delivered from Toronto to 8 Wing on November 29, they were prepared for shipment to RCMP hubs in Happy-Valley Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Thunder Bay, Ontario, by members of 8 Wing’s 2 Air Movements Squadron. With the precious cargo loaded into the back of a CC-130J Hercules, the aircrew from 436 Transport Squadron prepared for departure early on December 7.

Since the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) routinely performs training exercises in Canada’s North, there was no extra cost to help transport the toys said the flight’s aircraft commander, Captain Kevin Sawyers.

“We’re doing training flights all the time so when we can incorporate things like [Toys for the North] into that training, it’s all good training for the crew,” he said. “This is what we do on a regular basis: move cargo and people around to different places.”

The other crew members on the training flight Captain Derek Passma, Sergeant Patrick Johnson, Corporal Mike Watt and Corporal Ted Lapkin.

After travelling more than 2,000 kilometres, the Hercules landed in Happy-Valley where the crew was greeted by local RCMP and 5 Wing Goose Bay personnel. RCMP Constable Christopher Attewell, who helped unload the pallets of toys, said his team would spend a couple of days sorting and wrapping the presents. He said that the RCMP would then deliver the toys via a Twin Otter aircraft, snowmobiles and other means to remote communities such as Nain, Natuashish and Hopedale.

“These might be some of the best toys that the kids will receive,” he said. “Most of these communities only have one, maybe two, stores that carry toys. There’s not a lot of variety or selection.

“It brings the whole community together while Santa gives out the toys,” he continued. “Some of the kids will cry and you will see tears of joy from the parents when the kids are receiving their presents.”

“We like to take pride in our community and our country,” said Corporal Nicholas Merritt, a member of 25 Military Police Flight at 5 Wing. “Through events like this, we can give back to the country that actually gives to us quite a bit.”

He said was looking forward to helping wrap the presents and was happy to be a part of such a worthy cause. “For a lot of these northern communities there isn’t even a roadway to their location so it’s a wonderful experience to give back,” he said. “You know that every box that you wrap is going to put a smile on someone’s face.”

Once the toys for Newfoundland and Labrador were unloaded, the Hercules crew set their coordinates for Thunder Bay, where they were again greeted by members of the local RMCP detachment.

“It’s a great positive interaction with children in remote communities that don’t have a lot of interactions with the police,” said RCMP Constable Darryl Waruk, “and it’s a lot of fun for everybody.” He said his favourite part was seeing the children play with their gifts and the smiles on their faces.

“This is something extra that we do that makes things a little brighter for those kids,” he said. “It’s such a good networking opportunity between the police, military, donors and those communities.”

Since its inception, Toys for the North has collected and distributed over half a million dollars’ worth of toys to children in need.

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