CHRISTMAS: Generous man’s legacy lives on his annual toy drive

Last year, the annual initiative expanded to providing toys to orphans in Kenya. Submitted photo.

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

It’s been six years since Victor Ghirra suddenly passed away, but his giving spirit lives on in Richmond.

Ghirra’s unexpected death at the age of 37 was a shock to the community, where he was widely known for his many charitable initiatives — especially his donations of thousands of dollars worth of toys to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Family and friends refused to forget his generosity, so they developed the Victor Ghirra Toy Drive: “In memory of the man with the golden heart.”

Since its creation more than 9,650 toys have been collected in Victor’s name and donated to B.C. Children’s Hospital, Lower Mainland Salvation Army, Richmond Christmas Fund, Surrey Memorial Hospital, Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau and an orphanage in Kenya.

It was at Victor’s funeral that Harvey Kooner, with the Benevolent Brotherhood Society, decided the charity should be created.

“Speech after speech, in one of the most emotional funerals anyone has been to, all resonated the same feelings: it was not fair that Victor left this world at the tender age of 37,” said Kooner. “I decided then and there this can’t happen this way — we should honour his legacy.”

And now in its sixth year, it’s still going strong.

Victor was one of four brothers and had four kids of his own.

“It helps having the drive, it helps having family support,” said his brother, Micheal Ghirra. “Everyone moves on, I guess — we’re all going to move on to our next life.

“(But) it’s been good having this yearly thing — just continuing his legacy, it’s just a reminder that he was around. It’s a good thing … The more we remember the better we feel.”

To donate to the charity and continue Ghirra’s legacy, new and unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Riverside Banquet Hall, Vancity and all The Co-operaters Insurance Branches up until Dec. 7th.

On Dec. 8 the Ghirra family will be at the Riverside Banquet Hall in Richmond for the final toy count. All toys will then be donated to B.C. Children’s Hospital, Richmond Christmas Fund, Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau and South Fraser Community Services Society.

For the Ghirras, the annual event is a time for family and giving back to the community — which is what Victor would have wanted.

“He’s not with us, but we’re still together,” said Micheal.





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