Sharon Gilroy-Dreher started collecting socks for the less fortunate six years ago in remembrance of her mother who had passed away a few years prior.
The collection would have marked her 80th birthday.
“I was feeling sorry for myself because I missed her,” says Gilroy-Dreher, “I took my mom’s advice — when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, do something kind for someone else to take your mind off your own troubles.”
As Gilroy-Dreher pondered what she could do to help the community while also helping herself with the lose of her mother, she remembered her mother always had cold feet and loved wearing socks while giving socks to others as well.
In 2013, there was a need for socks for the Out of the Cold program so Gilroy-Dreher, along with family and friends, collected 492 pairs from just 19 people that first year.
Gilroy-Dreher did not partake in the sock collection campaign the following year.
However, after learning about the dire need for socks in the community and how important they are for those experiencing homelessness, she picked up the campaign again in 2015 and has been doing it annually ever since, thus Toasty Toes was born.
“I could never have imagined it would grow to be such a meaningful campaign.”
Since 2013, the drive has collected over 85,000 pairs of socks, with 39,500 collected just last year.
Hundreds of collections are hosted annually by local schools, companies, faith communities and sports teams all over the KW region and the campaign has even reached Guelph and Elgin-Middlesex who have started collecting in the past few years.
“It’s a little bit of kindness and comfort for people who may be struggling, and warm, dry socks help prevent a host of health problems that can come with wet and sore feet.”
Kitchener resident Scott Brennen has donated socks to the campaign throughout the years and believes everyone should partake in the event.
“It’s a simple and cheap donation that goes along way for people,” says Brennen. “Everyone has extra socks lying around that they don’t use so give them to people that could use them.”
The drive has continuously grown every year and what once was a small collection dedicated to a loved one has become a region wide event that helps thousands.
The campaign kicks off annually on World Homeless Day on October 10 and ends the day before Remembrance Day on November 10.