In 1982, Dorothy Gaspardone of the Nanaimo Altrusa group felt that, at Christmas, underprivileged children should be assured of a gift under the tree. Dorothy contacted the Nanaimo Corrections Centre who agreed to help clean, repair, store and deliver used, donated toys to a distribution site. The project was called The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive.
In 1985, The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive held its first registration in coordination with the Salvation Army.
In 1989, The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive was registered as an official charity.