To say Christmas is a big deal in my family would be an understatement. The Christmas carols start playing as soon as Thanksgiving is over, every room in the house is decorated with garlands and lights, advent candles are lit, and celebrating with extended family lasts several days. Tree-decorating and cookie-making are mandatory family traditions. As a kid, everything Christmas-related felt like absolute magic. On the day itself, my brothers and I would wake our parents up early and sit waiting anxiously on the stairs, squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the top step, until they checked that Santa had indeed come by and we were allowed to come down. But while many of my holiday memories involved receiving gifts, one of the most consistent traditions from my childhood is participating in the ‘adopt a family’ giving program at my church each Christmas. After Mass one Sunday in December, my parents would pick tree-shaped paper ornaments with short wish lists from a family in the area- a boy, age six, wanted an action figure, a girl, age twelve, wanted a CD, their mom asked for a pair of fuzzy socks. Often the simplicity of the requests made me pause- it was hard for me to imagine asking for socks for Christmas. But I always enjoyed being able to do something tangible for another family, because I wanted to make their holidays just as magical as mine were. This year as the holiday season approaches I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz at United Way about the Tommy Toy Fund, but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. From what I had gathered, it sounded similar: a way to ensure that Christmas morning is a little more magical for families in our community. But I had no idea of its unique origins until I visited the Tommy Toy Fund Facebook page:
“In December 1974, The Bulletin (Norwich's local newspaper) received a letter from a young girl in Eastern Connecticut concerned that there would be no toys for her younger brother Tommy on Christmas morning. She had overheard a conversation her mother was having that she had no extra money this holiday season to spend on toys for her children and instead needed the money for rent, utilities, and food. This young girl wrote her letter to the Bulletin in hopes that somebody in the region would be able to provide a few presents for them on Christmas morning.
"I’m old enough to understand,” the girl wrote. “But my little brother, Tommy, won’t understand why Santa Claus stopped at all his friends’ houses, but not at our house.”
The then editors of the Bulletin, Malcolm Morse and Greg LaFreniere, wrote a story and immediately published it just days before Christmas. The response from the community was overwhelming and enough donations were received that toys were provided to at least a dozen children in the New London and Windham counties.
Today, annual fundraisers are held throughout the year especially during November and December to collect toys and raise funds for the Tommy Toy Fund. Toys are then distributed in the surrounding areas for children in need just in time for Christmas morning.”
This year’s distribution will take place on December 13th and 14th. If your family would like to register to receive toys this year, please fill out this form and apply through a social service agency (TVCCA, Head Start, ACCESS, etc) by December 8th. Please see the form for instructions about day-of registration.
If you would like to donate to the Tommy Toy Fund, we are collecting more than just toys- diapers, pajamas, blankets, coats, and cash are also needed. There are a number of fun ways to support the Tommy Toy Fund- check out a few that are coming up:
Friday Dec. 1st – Tommy Toy Fund Santa Run in Norwich http://moheganstriders.org//wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Tommy-Toy-2017.pdf
Saturday December 2nd - ‘Stuff a Cruiser’ event in Groton https://www.theday.com/article/20171122/NWS04/171129769
Friday December 8th - Black Wolves Lacrosse Game at Mohegan Sun http://pointstreaksites.com/view/blackwolves/news-1697/news_495805
Saturday December 9th - Zumba Event at Tanger Outlets Foxwoods https://www.facebook.com/events/165057537570792/
Every day until December 11th – ‘Stuff the Bus’ drop-off at Foxwoods https://www.foxwoods.com/StuffTheBus/