Over the weekend hundreds of stuffed animals were thrown onto the ice at the Swift Current Broncos hockey game, helping to provide Christmas presents for those who otherwise may not have received any.

The Teddy Bear Toss is an annual event for the Swift Current Salvation Army, encouraging fans to throw stuffed animals and warm winter clothing onto the rink as the Broncos score their first goal of the night.

After the Broncos scored nearing the end of the first period, a flurry of mittens, toques, and of course stuffed animals flew over the boards, crowding the rink.

Play was stopped for around 10 minutes to collect the donations, allowing an impromptu intermission.
Volunteers, two trucks, as well as some Bronco players themselves were all on the ice to quickly collect all of the contributions.

Don Grad, a major with the Swift Current Salvation Army, said that last year’s turnout was impressive, and hopes that once they add up all of this year's donations they will be close to the previous total.

"Last year we had over 1,000 teddy bears, and I'm just going by memory, six or seven hundred hats, mitts, gloves, you name it, it was kind of a bumper crop last year, and we've utilized them all in one way or another."

After the bears are thrown onto the ice and collected, the various items are put into clear plastic bags, brought to the Salvation Army's church and food bank building, and organized.

Grad said that they then distribute the clothing and toys through their Christmas Store, in their Christmas Hampers, at the Salvation Army's Christmas dinner, at various senior homes, as well as giving some to the Newcomer Welcome Centre.

Grad explained the premise of the Christmas Store.

"Even if they're a family, and we've already given them the toys from the Angel Tree and such, the adults picking up the hamper have the opportunity to go to what we call our Christmas Store where they can pick out a few items, whether it might be for themselves, sometimes it's grandparents who are looking for just an extra little gift or something to give to their grandkids, so the teddy bears will be in there as well."

The Angel Tree is another initiative from the Salvation Army, where children can request what they want for Christmas and people can purchase that present for the child.

Speaking on the benefit of providing some of the clothing to other organizations, Grad said that they might be able to help others that the Salvation Army might not have helped.

"The Newcomer Welcome Centre said 'oh yeah, we would love to have them' and so they are getting to the hand of needy people, adults, kids, and to us that's kind of exciting, we want to be a part of the community, it's not always about that we have to do the giving out, but we can be helpful with other agencies because they are connecting with people that we might not see."

Grad said that while clothing is not the focus of the event, they are appreciated just as much.

"For the last three years, that'll be the fourth that we've actually been part of, the hats and mitts have been a traditional component of what gets tossed on the ice, and it's nice, because we can use them in significant ways as well."

Grad said that total donation numbers would most likely be made available either today or tomorrow.

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