Pack the Back – Paramedics Help Families in Need


Every once and awhile, you witness something that reminds you of the kindness exclusive to humanity. The generosity displayed in the fourth annual Pack the Back toys, food and clothing drive is a prime example.

Each year, our Paramedicine and Medical Transport team ask the public to help them pack the backs of ambulances with toys, food and clothing. Donations are then given to the Salvation Army to help families in need during Christmas.

Fourth annual Pack the Back toys, food and clothing drive donation event.

Fourth annual Pack the Back toys, food and clothing drive donation event.

On December 15, our PMT team gathered together to celebrate another great haul and pass off all of the donations collected during the fourth annual Pack the Back toys, food and clothing drive.

Stuffed toys, pajamas, clothing, hats and mitts, along with dolls and play kitchens lined the ambulances wall to wall.

The PMT team and members of the Salvation Army were very pleased with the many donations they received and the kindness and generosity displayed in the community.

The PMT team volunteered their time to collect donations at Walmart locations in St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Carbonear on December 6 and 13, 2014.

Sean Murphy, primary care paramedic and Zack Parrell, advance care paramedic, collecting a donation from Kathy Watkins, director of Centre for Nursing Studies at Eastern Health.

Sean Murphy, primary care paramedic and Zack Parrell, advance care paramedic, collecting a donation from Kathy Watkins, director of Centre for Nursing Studies at Eastern Health.

The goal was to fill up the back of at least two empty ambulances, but they managed to go above and beyond their expectations this year. In fact, there were more than four ambulances stuffed to the brim full of goodies!

The Salvation Army is helping take care of 1,500 families this season and they have received 1,700 toy bags through various donations, including the Pack the Back initiative.

“We have been doing this for several years now and we look forward to it every year. The Pack the Back drive tops up our toys as we get near the end of our toy drive,” explained Ken Ritson, Major for Salvation Army. “For us, it’s helping us take care of the little needs that all of a sudden come up. Say we need a toy for a nine-year-old boy or are still looking for something for a 13-year old girl – this helps us make sure all of our toys are complete.”

Paramedics Karen Spurvey and Steve Ryan coordinated the event this year for the first time. Both were very excited to see the support from the community.

“We do it for the Christmas spirit and for families in need. It’s all volunteer work. We had plenty of support from the PMT team but it doesn’t require a lot of people really and a lot of people came and helped out,” said Spurvey.

Steve Ryan said the reaction has been outstanding and he noticed a lot of the public were expecting Pack the Back to set up and were waiting patiently with their gifts to donate.

PMT team at the fourth annual Pack the Back donation event. (l-r) Casey Price (Metro Paramedic Service), Stephen Ryan (MPS), Lee Clarke (Carbonear General Paramedic Service) Karen Spurvey (MPS), Rebecca Turner (MPS), and Lloyd Chubbs (CGPS).

PMT team at the fourth annual Pack the Back donation event. (l-r) Casey Price (Metro Paramedic Service), Stephen Ryan (MPS), Lee Clarke (Carbonear General Paramedic Service) Karen Spurvey (MPS), Rebecca Turner (MPS), and Lloyd Chubbs (CGPS).

“This year looks like it was our biggest year yet, which is pretty amazing,” said Ryan. “The reaction from the public has been phenomenal. A lot of people are willing to give up their time for a good cause. To see a large U-Haul truck chalked full of the donations we collected was pretty amazing.”

The PMT team plan on continuing the tradition next year.

This story was written by Gina Hartmann, a communication specialist with Eastern Health in St. John’s.

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