Virtual hugs, real-life joy – and €5m for charity – boy, did the Late Late Toy Show deliver
It was the night we all needed. And then some.
Tonight, across the country – and, indeed, across the world – families, adults, kids, grannies, granddads, aunties and uncles and friends, whether Irish by heritage or, just like myself, Irish by heart, sat down to watch Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Toy Show.
After such a strange, difficult and, to many, heartbreaking year, it was as if we all collectively needed to feel that familiar sense of joy, hope and magic that the toy show brings.
It was a toy show unlike any other. In the age of social distancing, there was no in-studio audience (anyone else missed the whole 'one for everyone in the audience!' bit?). Nor could Ryan get up close with any of the children to play with the toys with them. There was no actual hugging going on – but still, what was delivered to us was so filled with joy and warmth and hope for better days to come, it was just what we all needed after this year.
To fully embrace the theme of imagination and wonder and magic, this year's Late Late Toy Show theme was the wonderful world of Roald Dahl – and sees Ryan open the programme done up as Fantastic Mr Fox.
One of the guest's on tonight's Toy Show, who might put things in perspective for a lot of us, was little Saoirse Ruane from Galway. 12 months ago, on the eve of last year's Toy Show, she was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and in order to remove the tumour she had growing in her leg, doctors had to amputate her leg.
Now, nine months after her surgery, Saoirse has a prosthetic limb with a picture of a unicorn on it.
Having dreamt about being able to walk again before Christmas, Saoirse proudly shows Ryan how she can tick that wish off her list.
— RTÉ One (@RTEOne) November 27, 2020
Later in the show, we meet the adorable Aidan and his impressive train collection. Rock chick Annie, eight-year-old Gabrielle Dermody, who tried – and failed – to teach Ryan how to do a viral TikTok dance. And let's not forget Michael Moloney from Ballina, who got to sing with his idol, Dermot Kennedy.
— RTÉ One (@RTEOne) November 28, 2020
And then there was little Adam from east Cork – who stole all our heart with his virtual hug sign – that he flashes to everyone he wants to hug – but not can't. Adam, who loves astronauts, is reunited with his favourite hospital porter, John Doyle, from Temple Street, who confirms to us all that Adam really is as amazing as we can all see he is.
"Adam has such an infectious smile that even the darkest planet would light up."
And if Twitter is anything to go by, we all feel the same about Adam.
— Av (@_youngwann) November 27, 2020
This has broken us.
— RTÉ 2FM (@RTE2fm) November 27, 2020
And in the spirit of hope, Ryan announces a new charity during the show – the Toy Show Appeal – helping Barnados, Children’s Health Ireland and Children’s Books Ireland.
The appeal was launched "to spread the Toy Show magic across the year to children who need it most".
"Every year on the Toy Show we are inspired by children across Ireland, with stories of hope, resilience and triumph over adversity. In this exceptional year, we have been moved by the generosity of the children of Ireland as they have looked out for one another and those less fortunate in their communities," Ryan said.
And the people of Ireland heard him. And wanted to help.
In the end, more than €5 million is raised by the end credits.
All in all, it was a toy show like no other. And yet so familiar to us all. It was the night that kick-starts the Christmas season for so many Irish families. It was a moment of normality in a year so far from normal. It was joy. And love. And (virtual) hugs. And it was hope. For better times to come. And we all needed it.
This was, by far, THE best toy show that @rte and the @RTELateLateShow have ever produced. It was ALL about the children and simple messages of love, gratitude, belief and following dreams. Well done to Ryan and all the team involved in pulling it together
— Vicky Phelan (@PhelanVicky) November 28, 2020