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Mercers find way to make annual memorial Christmas Toy Drive a go

By Chris Lewis | Nov. 19, 2020

The Riley Mercer Memorial Christmas Toy Drive is going to be a bit different this year.

Usually, on the evening of Dec. 10, the toy drive in memory of Alex and Riley Mercer, sees hundreds of people come together for a church service at the Salvation Army Church in Long Pond, followed by donations of toys that go out to children just in time for Christmas.

This year, because of Covid-19 related restrictions on the number of people allowed in one gathering, that can’t happen. Organizer Louise Mercer, mother of the siblings who were both lost to brain cancer, said it would hardly make any sense to pick and choose who could attend the service and who could not.

But she and her husband Bernie have worked out a way to ensure the toy drive can still go ahead.

“So, this year, we’re going to have a drive-by drop-off at the church,” Louise said. “Myself and Bern will be at the church all day long receiving gifts and meeting everybody. But, people are not allowed in the church, so they’ll have to pass along the gifts this way instead.”

At 7:00 that same evening of Dec. 10, the Mercers will host a closing ceremony, with some town officials, and members of the church. This, she hopes, will be as close to the ceremonies held in the past as they can get.

“Our toy drive means everything to us,” Louise said. “It is our celebration of Riley’s and Alex’s life. It is our Christmas and it is so necessary for less fortunate families of our community.”

Mercer said they are well aware that COVID-19 has affected many families and many are still without jobs. That’s why this year’s toy drive is especially important.

Last year, the toy drive resulted in 204 hampers delivered to less fortunate children in and around Conception Bay South. Although she is not quite sure what to expect this year, Louise has high hopes.

“The toy drive has gotten bigger each year,” she said. “The first year, we supplied toys to 160 children in CBS, and last year we went up to 204. This year, registration is currently ongoing for toy hampers. So, we’ll have some numbers after that to know just how many children are registered, what age group is dominant this year, and things like that. I don’t know what to expect this year. As long as we can supply enough to all the registered children. But, that all depends on the support of the community. We know the economy has taken a hit this year, but the community has always pulled through in the past, so we’re looking forward to how it goes.”

This year’s toy drive will be livestreamed on Facebook, and Louise has plenty of local entertainment set to perform throughout the day, as well as tributes to Alex and Riley.

“I’ll be doing an appearance on Facebook every day starting on Dec. 6 as a friendly reminder to everybody that if they’re taking part, to get their toy into us on the 10th,” said Mercer. “With our events, I love to go big or go home. I just want it to be successful, and I want Alex and Riley to know the whole community is coming together for them.”

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