December began and brought more weight to our shoulders. When I felt like I couldn’t carry more, there was more – pain, sorrow, disbelief. We needed another focus. Dan and I have been working on a project for Toby. We are creating a foundation in his name – The Little Fox. We are still in the beginning stages, but we wanted to use it as a way to do something for Christmas in memory of him. We partnered with Play it Forward Pittsburgh and, working with a small group of friends, family, and neighbors, collected gently used toys for children and families in need this holiday season.
We had many ask if they could share with other groups they were involved with or post on social media and after much thought, we decided to keep it small for this first year. We were so grateful for the donations we received and the people that wanted to help us in any way possible. It showed us how much larger this effort could have been and we hope that in 2017, with a little more planning, we can help Play it Forward again, in Toby’s name.
There were five carloads of toys, materials to help the organization with their toy drive, and monetary donations that when given to Play it Forward totaled an amount that would help to cover a large amount of their operating budget for the upcoming year. They, along with Dan and I, were shocked and humbled by everyone that contributed to this drive.
Our friends Nick and Jess helped us make the delivery to the Convention Center, downtown Pittsburgh, where Play it Forward was accepting donations and organizing all the toys for their “one-day shopping” experience that they offer to anyone who needs help with toys for children at Christmastime. We got to meet Heather, co-founder of Play it Forward, who told us her and Amy’s story and how it has grown to the organization it is today. It was amazing to hear what they have done and the number of people they have been able to help, just from amazing people, just like those that helped us.
It was a bittersweet moment, standing in the bottom of the Convention Center with the pile of gifts we had unloaded, Luke running around with the volunteers, and thinking about how all of this happened and our amazing little boy, Toby, behind our donation. The ache in my heart at that moment, for him to be here with us, to be holding him in our arms – it was so intense. But for a moment, the room went quiet and the thought of how I wish you were here brought this feeling of warmth and a smile to my face.
I talk to Toby a lot. Everyday. I had told him what were were doing and what was collected. When we stood in the garage sorting toys, I talked to him. I wanted him to know the smiles that all these things would bring to little boys and girls on Christmas morning. I hope he can see what Dan, Luke and I were able to do. I hope it makes him smile. He had the most beautiful smile and the cutest laugh that when you heard it, you couldn’t help but laugh with him. I hope that he is smiling and laughing with all the children that receive those toys this Christmas.
We continue to be amazed at people who offer their support during our time of grief. We’ve received cards in the mail from people we don’t know. Cards that offer thoughts, prayers, advice and even “thank you’s” for what we are doing. There have been a handful of notes that say “Toby would be proud.” Sometimes I look at those words and cry. I don’t want him to be proud – I want him to be here. But sometimes I look at those words and can look up and say I hope you are, sweet boy. Everything Dad and I do, we are doing it for you and for Luke.
Play it Forward was so thankful for our donations that they asked if they could thank us through their social media pages and post our website link so that others could hear about Toby and see what we’re hoping to do on his behalf. When they posted the link, it attached Toby’s picture to the post and when it popped up in my facebook newsfeed, it took my breath away.
How lucky are we that so many people will get to see Toby’s beautiful face and read his story? How many people will our story impact that prior to our one act of kindness, never would have known? That is just amazing to me.
Our Christmas Gift to Toby this year was smiles, joy and laughter to thousands of families in the Pittsburgh region. That is what I hope we can hold onto on Christmas morning when we’re wishing so badly that he was with us in our arms watching Luke play with his toys and experiencing so much love from our families.
Thank you to everyone that contributed to our drive. For those of you that clicked on the link and visited our site – thank you. We hope seeing Toby’s face put a smile on yours for the day and we thank you for continuing to support our efforts through The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation in the future.