Willoughby Save-On-Foods assistant manager Brad Calyniuk and event organizer Andy Bhatti held up an autographed NHL alumni jersey that will be up for grabs at the Celebrity Christmas Food and Toy drive taking place this Saturday at the Save-On-Foods at 20255 64th Ave.

Charity event features NHL alumni, local actors

Food, toys, and cash collected from a Saturday meet-and-greet at the Save-On-Foods on 64th Avenue will go to Sophie’s Place.

Andy Bhatti has had his struggles, but the advocate for sexual abuse victims is in a happy place, now.

And for the past few years, he’s been giving back to others on a daily basis.

This Saturday from 1:30 to 4 p.m., Bhatti is organizing a Celebrity Christmas Food and Toy Drive at the Willoughby Save-On-Foods (20255 64th Ave.).

All food, toys, and proceeds will go to Sophie’s Place and The Centre for Child Development.

Bhatti is getting a lot of help from his friends, with an autograph session featuring actor Graham Wardle (Heartland), actor Aleks Paunovic, UFC fighter and actor Jason Day, and NHL alumni members Dave Babych, Mark Lofthouse, and John Craighead, who also coaches the junior B Langley Knights.

Autographs will be offered in exchange for nonperishable food items, unwrapped toys, or cash.

All those who donate will be eligible to win an NHL alumni jersey adorned with the signatures of Hockey Hall of Fame member Darryl Sittler, as well as notables such as Guy Carbonneau, Kirk McLean, Wendel Clark, Danny Gare, and Nick Kypreos, among others.

About Andy Bhatti

Sexually abused as a youngster, Bhatti fell into a dark tunnel of drug addiction, homelessness, and crime, and came out the other side.

In recent years, the Langley resident has devoted his life to helping victims of sexual abuse, and largely because of that, was the 2015 Courage To Come Back Award recipient in the addiction category.

Bhatti is now a certified substance abuse support worker and recovery coach, and a big part of Survivors Support Survivors, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources for survivors, both men and women, of childhood victimization.

Giving back

While Saturday’s event will help raise awareness for victims of sexual abuse, it is also about generating food, toys, and cash for the less fortunate.

This is something Bhatti, who grew up in a one-parent household, knows all too well.

“My mom was a single parent of three so we relied on Christmas hampers,” he explained. “As a kid I was so grateful to get Christmas hampers because we didn’t have much money.”

Christmas can be a difficult time for people who are struggling, and especially for victims of sexual abuse, Bhatti said: “If I can help other families who were in similar situations [to what I was], it makes me feel good at the end of the day.”

 

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