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‘Tis the season of giving: Blackfish Pub hosts its Toy Drive on Dec. 13

The donations will go toward the Sunshine Coast Secret Santa Group’s mission to help families in need
Kara and George McDonnell, who like to golf together when not at the Blackfish Pub, are the father-daughter duo behind the annual Toy Drive.

With just weeks to go before Santa Claus comes to town, the Blackfish Pub in Gibsons will be hosting its annual Toy Drive. 

On Dec. 13, the pub invites Sunshine Coast residents and pub patrons to donate a new unwrapped toy, gift card or donation starting at $20 in value, which will then be donated to local families through the Sunshine Coast Secret Santa Group. In the spirit of giving, participating donors are offered a free meal from the Blackfish Pub’s special menu curated for the event. 

Hundreds of people donated to the Toy Drive last year, general manager Kara McDonnell told Coast Reporter. The Sunshine Coast Secret Santa website shows donations equivalent to $50,562.05 helped support 30 local families last Christmas. So many donors attended the Blackfish Pub’s Toy Lunch that the pub filled up and there was a line out the door. 

“It’s a really fun day. Last year, we had a mountain of toys,” McDonnell said. “The Coast is so generous.”

The Sunshine Coast Secret Santa Group helps an average of 30 to 40 families each year, and more if donations allow. Some of the need for donations arises from people facing loss of a family member, critical illness or medical conditions (and the required costs for travelling to healthcare treatments), fleeing domestic violence or facing other hardships. Profiles of 10 families who will benefit from this year’s fundraising efforts are available at, and provide basic information so donors can tailor their gifts. The Sunshine Coast Secret Santa Group is still accepting nominations for families in need.

In order to accommodate everyone — especially now that the Blackfish Pub’s licence allows minors to accompany their families — this Dec. 13, the event will last all day long, not just at lunchtime. The menu will include classics such as the beef dip, and new items created by the chef especially for the Toy Drive. 

The Blackfish Pub has already purchased a bunch of toys to start the pile off, McDonnell said. 

McDonnell said it all began with her father, George. In 2000, George was listening to Rock 101 on his drive to work when he heard an advertisement about the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver hosting a Toy Breakfast, and was inspired to do something similar on the Coast. Ever since, except for a hiatus during the pandemic, the Toy Lunch has been celebrated at the Blackfish Pub.

The Blackfish Pub is also hosting their Advent event on Dec. 19, during which 10 per cent of all sales all day will go to the Gibsons Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.