RCAF and RCMP partner in record-setting Toys for the North campaign  

Avatar for Ben ForrestBy Ben Forrest | December 21, 2023

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 34 seconds.

Volunteers, including RCAF and RCMP personnel, gather with Santa in front of a C-130J Hercules aircraft after the arrival of toys to 8 Wing Trent, Ont. Sailor First Class Erin Roberts/8 Wing Imaging Photo

The man dressed as Santa Claus could not have asked for a better sleigh.  

Smiling widely in a plush, billowy red costume and cap, with a bushy white beard that nearly matched his neat, enamel-coloured gloves, the man stood near a CC-130J Hercules aircraft at Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) 8 Wing Trenton, Ont.  

A few days later, a similar Herc lifted off with its belly full of toys, bound for remote communities in Canada’s North. Santa may or may not have been along for the ride — sources close to the operation are cautious with details — but he was likely glad for the help.  

This brief interaction at 8 Wing in early December marked the 13th consecutive year RCAF members have participated in Toys for the North, an annual charitable campaign that delivers holiday gifts to children in Northern communities.  

Cpl Tevin Johnson tightens a cargo strap on a pallet of toys bound for Nunavut. RCAF Photo

The campaign is a collaboration between the RCAF, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and toy industry partners. This year’s effort collected more than $562,000 worth of toys and monetary donations for nearly 4,000 children, according to the Canadian Toy Association (CTA).  

RCAF members provide air transport for the campaign, with the first of several flights lifting off from 8 Wing on Dec. 18, 2023, according to an RCAF spokesperson. Additional flights were planned for the following three days, with plans to deliver toys to Iqaluit, Nunavut; Goose Bay, N.L., Thunder Bay, Ont.; and communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.  

“8 Wing takes pride in its ability to support this initiative,” said 2Lt Monika Melanson, speaking on behalf of the RCAF, in an emailed statement. “These donations … have a significant impact on members of their communities.” 

Santa checks in with two RCMP and RCAF helpers. Sailor First Class Erin Roberts 8 Wing Imaging Photo

The RCMP coordinates Toys for the North, with transportation from the RCAF every year since the campaign launched in 2010. RCMP members collect, sort and wrap the toys with help from community volunteers, then transport them to an airfield for airlift to the northern communities.   

After the toys arrive at hub communities, the RCMP sometimes uses its own aircraft to carry toys to remote areas.  

“Some communities are not connected by roads; therefore air transport is the only way,” said RCMP Cpl Angelique Dignard in an email to Skies.  

“Ground delivery can come in the form of volunteer community vehicles, and RCMP vehicles like snowmobiles and sleds have also been used.”  

The process of collecting and delivering each toy requires a carefully managed partnership between multiple stakeholders, and the results are often heart-warming.  

“Kids, who simply because of where they live, would not normally be the recipient of toys from an annual campaign, smile with happiness and joy when they open their gifts,” said Dignard.  

“It is no small task to coordinate the huge amount of toys from start to finish and we could not do it without the collaboration of all our partners. They are all enthusiastic and committed to the campaign and we are grateful for each and every one of them.”  

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