On Saturday, Nov. 28, several TV and movie actors, along with hockey stars, will gather inside the Save-On Foods store on 64 Avenue.
The likes of Canucks alumni Dave Babych, Heartland star Graham Wardle and UFC fighter and actor Jason Day are coming together for the Celebrity Christmas Food and Toy Drive to support Sophie’s Place Child Advocacy Centre.
The fundraising event, which runs from 2 to 4 p.m., is the brainchild of child sexual abuse survivors’ advocate Andy Bhatti, who felt the need to spread awareness and a little holiday cheer for children who suffer — as he did as a child.
“When you are a little kid going through sexual abuse, abuse in the home or any kind of trauma, you don’t often look forward to very much,” said Bhatti. “Often for those young victims, so much of their lives are in chaos. I know from personal experience.
“So I thought about how I could raise money, toys and food for these kids. Wouldn’t it be great if we could give these kids something to look forward to?
“I grew up poor and as difficult as Christmas was, I did look forward to getting that hamper, knowing there were gifts for me and food.”
He spoke to several celebrities he knows about his idea and they all jumped on board, he said.
Save On Foods is handing out more than 7,000 flyers with people’s groceries to promote the free event.
Every person who brings a non-perishable food item and unwrapped toy will be entered into a draw to win a jersey signed by NHL superstars and Stanley Cup winners like Ted Lindsay, Rod Langway, Johnny Bower and Darryl Sittler.
The jersey is valued at around $3,500.
Langley Chrysler has donated a Wii U as a prize and Shoppers has donated a gift basket.
The donation also gets people a photo of the stars, which they are happy to sign on site.
“It’s going to be a really great day. It’s an opportunity to spread awareness about support for survivors of sexual abuse. It’s a way for me to show them that they aren’t alone and that there is support and help out there if they want to reach out.”
Bhatti, winner of a Courage to Come Back award, was sexually abused for several years before he got away from his abuser, fleeing into a world of heavy drug use and homelessness, sleeping on the streets of Aldergrove and the Downtown Eastside, using heroin by the age of 15.
Bhatti didn’t tell anyone about the abuse at the time; it was a police officer who helped him talk about it later in life. By then, his attacker, Joseph Baker, had been convicted of sexually abusing two boys in Kamloops.
Bhatti has been clean for nine years, helped by years of counselling and group therapy.
He has started his own charity, Survivors Supporting Survivors, and is now a trained interventionist with ASL — Intervention and Addiction Services — helping kids across Canada.
In the summer, he biked across Newfoundland to raise awareness and funds there after getting a call from a mother desperate for help for her young son who had been abused.
There are no centres like Sophie’s Place in that province.