Programs & Services

4th Annual CannaConnect Toy Drive Connects Toys and Kids

This past holiday season saw the 4th annual CannaConnect Toy Drive deliver toys to troops in need across the country. The project was made possible by the Shamus O’Reilly Show, Untitled Giving Project, and Rude Awakening Tour.

“It started off actually very small,” Veteran and Veteran Ambassador for CannaConnnect, Shamus O’Reilly explained, “I was doing a show on Facebook it was called the Shamus O’Reilly show, and it was a show that I would do to speak about how cannabis was helping me through my PTSD. Then, about four years ago, I decided I’m going to see if I can raise 500 bucks for a family, and then CannaConnect said, ‘well if you raise 500, we’ll match it.’”

“We’re not asking for any money,” said O’Reilly, “These toys are completely donated, and we are just passing them off to deserving children and families.”

Growing each year

The toy drive has grown every year, and more people are sponsoring, making it nationwide now. However, the Untitled Giving Project in Toronto is primarily responsible for donating these toys.

“We’re not asking for any money,” said O’Reilly, “These toys are completely donated, and we are just passing them off to deserving children and families.”

Knowing how stressful Christmas can be, O’Reilly wanted to give back to the military community.

He mentioned that he, along with his coworker Mike Rude, who started the Rude Awakening Tour, distributed the toys in Newfoundland.

Rude also drove across the country towing a CannaConnect trailer, delivering the rest of the toys. O’Reilly described Rude as double hatted as he is also driving around with #TheRudeAwakeningTour on the side of the trailer to promote the tour. The tour strives to educate, advocate and address the real effects of Mefloquine on operational veterans who served in the world’s danger zones in the service of the Canadian Forces.

The toy drive has grown every year, and more people are sponsoring, making it nationwide now. However, the Untitled Giving Project in Toronto is primarily responsible for donating these toys.

A Personal Connection

O’Reilly wanted to join the military ever since he was a young boy. So when he was medically released, he was devastated.

“I lost my job. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I’ve since retrained myself as an electrician, but there wasn’t passion in my job.”

Christmas was a particularly difficult time for O’Reilly as he went through his therapy and healing.

“As I’ve progressed in my therapy, and as my progress with my mental health has improved, I have a completely different spin on Christmas now.”

COVID-19 wasn’t an issue when the toy drive first started, but this is how it grew. When COVID kicked in a couple of years ago, they wanted to raise money for people who had been affected by COVID-19, whether it was a single-family, a single-income family, or whatever the case may be. So, last year alone, they delivered toys to 40 children.

Knowing how stressful Christmas can be, O’Reilly wanted to give back to the military community.

“I know there are single moms. There are veterans who have retired and only receive an actual veteran’s pension. They have no medical benefits because they weren’t medically released. These are things we were all thinking about now,” he explained.

COVID-19’s Impact

COVID-19 wasn’t an issue when the toy drive first started, but this is how it grew. When COVID kicked in a couple of years ago, they wanted to raise money for people who had been affected by COVID-19, whether it was a single-family, a single-income family, or whatever the case may be. So, last year alone, they delivered toys to 40 children.

“It gives me a sense of pride as to what it is that we’ve created here, and to be honest with you, it warms my heart,” he expressed. “We talk about the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of giving, well, that’s, that’s exactly what this is.”

Going forward, O’Reilly says the Toy Drive is only going to get bigger. He is encouraging anybody who finds themselves in a position of needing help over Christmas to reach out.

Contact Information

Going forward, O’Reilly says the Toy Drive is only going to get bigger. He is encouraging anybody who finds themselves in a position of needing help over Christmas to reach out and email here.

When entering the Toy Drive, the only information asked for is the child’s age, gender, and shipping address. All the names are kept anonymous.

For more information about CannaConnect, visit here. Anyone interested in learning about The Rude Awakening Tour, visit here.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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