Toys, money for Savanna’s 8th birthday wish—all to give away

·2 min read

Savanna Robilliard celebrated her eighth birthday on Sunday, Nov. 15 with a generous spirit, by requesting toys, not for herself, but to donate to the Aylmer Optimist Club’s Christmas Toy Drive.

“I wanted to help other kids,” said Savanna, on the inspiration behind the initiative, which she started with her own savings.

“My daughter saved up $100 of her own money to buy toys for other kids,” said Savanna’s mother, Sara Robilliard. “Because of COVID-19, she decided it wasn’t enough and wanted to have a drive-by for her birthday to collect more toys.”

The weather was poor that day, with rain, high winds and power outages, but people still showed up with their gifts. Support came from family, friends and the community, with about 30 people dropping off donations at her family’s home from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day (taking care to keep distance and wear masks).

Hearing of the good deed, Santa Claus made a surprise appearance, greeting Savanna and her family, and giving a $100 donation as well.

A variety of gifts were dropped off, including stuffed animals, dolls, puzzles and books.

Including Savanna’s own savings, they received over $700 in monetary donations, which will be used to purchase toys. Donations are still being accepted at the 12 St. George Street home.

Sara said they have found great enjoyment in buying gifts for others, saying, “Yes we are so excited! We have filled my van twice with toys and more are still coming in!”

She credited her sister-in-law and Optimist Danielle Howe, for being a huge help with the initiative.

Savanna was thanked by the Aylmer Optimist Club for her thoughtfulness and consideration, saying she had a “future in Optimism.”

Optimist Christmas Toy Drive Chair Dave Dohnt, said the official kickoff for the toy drive will be marked by a barbecue at the Bargain Shop on Saturday, Dec. 5. Toys will be delivered to families in need on Saturday, Dec. 19.

The Optimist Club toy drive has been a tradition in the community for the past 60 years.

Mr. Dohnt said that donations have been “pretty good so far,” and started fairly early this year. Toys are quarantined for 72 hours before being handled.

Drop-off locations for the toy drive in town are: ESSO Snack N’ Run gas station; ICS Courier Services; McTaggart, Armstrong Dewar & Owen Insurance; The Aylmer Express; Colonel Talbot Branch 81, Royal Canadian Legion; Showcase East Elgin Realty Inc.; and Springfield Rona.

Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express