12 Days of PR: Spreading the Christmas Spirit: 45th Annual ‘Help Santa Toy Parade’

Written by: Madison Dobson

Edited by: Pina Capuano & Jocelyn Courneya
Photography by: Sarah Pudwell


On Saturday, Nov. 22, I had the chance to attend the 45th annual ‘Help Santa Toy Parade’ in Ottawa, hosted by the Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association. Since moving to Ottawa in 2013, this was my first time attending the Christmas parade and I was excited to be part of this local holiday tradition.

The parade began at 11 a.m. sharp and travelled from Wellington Street, along Bank Street, ending at Laurier Avenue West and Elgin Street. Despite the bitterly cold weather, there was a large turnout with people, young and old, lining the streets.

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Growing up, the Santa Clause parade had always been a greatly anticipated Christmas tradition, and I was pleased to see the same spirit still active throughout the crowd. The parade included a diverse display of floats, ranging from big names like Coca-Cola, Scotia Bank, and Bell, to smaller, non-profit and local organizations.

It was evident throughout the parade that the citizens of Ottawa value the hard work and dedication of those who sacrifice their safety for others. This active appreciation was proven to the many safety personnel who took part in the parade including firefighters, police, paramedics, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces. This sense of pride for the city and its many appreciated services, was further demonstrated with the inclusion of OC Transpo, the Ottawa International Airport, and the City of Ottawa itself.

OC Transportation creatively dresses up one of the buses

OC Transportation creatively dresses up one of the buses

The true stars of the show however, were cuter than most and furry in nature. The heavy presence of dogs walking in the parade was undeniable. They were loved by spectators and helped to support and promote local animal rescue organizations. Some of the many organizations included: Sit With Me Dog Rescue, Ottawa Dog Rescue, Care Canine Adoption, Friendly Giants Dog Rescue, and Westies in Need. This exposure provided a fantastic opportunity for these local dog rescue organizations to promote their cause in front of a caring audience.

I was surprised however, to see the lack of promotion leading up to this annual event. There could have been more build up situated around the parade with perhaps larger sponsorship to draw in a larger crowd and provide more support for the Toy Drive. While there were a few spectators in the crowd ready with donations, it also appeared that many onlookers were unaware of the Toy Drive and the small monetary donations collected by the Fire Fighters Association. One would have only been made aware of these features if they had previously attended the parade or conducted some further background research.

Toy Drive float collecting donations

Toy Drive float collecting donations

Another missed opportunity was the involvement of local business in the downtown core during the actual occurrence of the parade. Through decorations or promotions, their involvement could have created a greater sense of community and improved the Christmas atmosphere of the parade.

Overall, the parade was successful in bringing people together to share in the holiday spirit. Even if this sense of togetherness was only for a brief amount of time, it was successful in creating a ‘small town’ vibe in a hectic and large city.

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