It has taken us a few days to come down from the incredible high that we were on from each and every person that helped make our 2017 Stuff-a-Truck event a HUGH success!
The temperatures weren’t exactly on our side when we woke up on Sunday, but we piled on the layers and when Dave & Rachel pulled up in front of our house the adrenaline kicked in and that was all we needed. I remember walking around the side of the garage and seeing the truck – I got a lump in my throat and as I walked up the driveway I had tears in my eyes. There was a gigantic truck sitting there and the reality of what we were about to do was sinking in. This is BIG.
We started loading up everything that was in our garage – donations from our professional connections, North American Martyrs/St. Michael’s Parish, neighbors and friends. Standing there watching boxes and items go into the truck, my mom stood beside me. We looked at each other and she said “You may need another truck.” Again, another overwhelming moment and feeling of determination. You may have heard it in my voice in the video below – we were going to fill that truck. I had no doubt in my mind.
Volunteers arrived at Dad’s Pub & Grub at 11 and we got everything set up. We had nearly a dozen people that stayed the entire time to help. There were 8-10 people volunteering each hour and you’d never even know there was a “changing of the guard” because these amazing people had things moving like a well oiled machine.
Donation drop-off started at noon and by 12:40 – the truck looked like this:
By 1 o’clock there was a line of cars out on Northern Pike waiting to pull in to donate. It was amazing to see!
Around 2PM two things happened that brought the tears – (#1) Channel 11 showed up to video what was happening. They asked us about Toby’s story and Play it Forward and where all these donations were going. Talk about a proud parent moment. At one point, I looked over my shoulder and a van had pulled up and they were opening the back doors. (This is thing #2) Triangle Bar & Grill from Swissvale was delivering 10 (TEN) NEW BIKES! Volunteers helped them upload each bike and set them up to the side of the truck. I stood there looking at them – with no words. This was incredible and gracious.
Not only were there lines of people outside – Dad’s was packed inside, too with families that came to drop off and then when in for lunch. And everyone rocked their Steelers gear for the game that evening!
Our event was scheduled to run until 3PM and by 2:45 – our 26ft truck – was STUFFED!
It was incredible. By the time the volunteers place all the big items – train tables; large doll houses; picnic and water tables; a few pieces of furniture; and then put in all the bikes that were dropped off – there was just enough room to close the door.
Can you believe that? I stood there looking at the back of that truck as they were finishing and heard this little voice “We did it, Mommy. Just enough.”
How did that happen? It happened through the hope of a grieving family. It happened because Toby’s JOY is meant to be a part of many lives.
We even got to have a little bit of fun during the day and enjoy our time with everyone that came out. Although, Luke was a little chilly.
A few shout-outs to some key players that helped us bring this event together –
- Dad’s Pub & Grub – Northern Pike in Monroeville. If you haven’t been there, get in to see Dan and his team over the holidays. The food is amazing and they have great beer, too. We couldn’t have done this without the prime location and there amazing support and encouragement from the very beginning.
- Don Farr Moving – Dan, Rachel, Frank and the rest of the team from Don Farr that provided the truck; the packing supplies; and the labor to fill the truck to the brim. Then, on Monday, they delivered the truckload of donations to the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh to kick-off Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Toy Donations.
- Simmons Farm – a part of our extended family, Simmons Farm served as a “pop-up” location for donations the week leading up to our Stuff-a-Truck event. Their efforts from donors in the South Hills area loaded another truck to deliver to Play it Forward.
- Every Volunteer – there are WAY too many to name, but please know we are thankful for every minute and every way you were able to support us during the past month. We could not have done this without your support.
- Grandma, Pup, Nana & PapPap – First, thank you for watching Luke so he didn’t have to brave the cold temperature. Second, thank you, and our immediate family members, for continually supporting whatever crazy idea we dream up, especially the ones that support keeping Toby’s memory alive and helping our dream of The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation come to reality.
- Last, but certainly not least, Play it Forward Pittsburgh – Heather & Amy – Thank you for allowing our family to contribute to this beautiful and amazing cause that you have created here in Pittsburgh. It has been an honor to support Play it Forward, in memory of Toby, and see the amount of people who want to get behind it in the future. You both have created something amazing – we are glad to be able to be a part of it.
Dan & I were able to volunteer on Play it Foward’s Shop Day – Saturday, December 16 at the Convention Center downtown Pittsburgh. Leading up to that day, Shady Side Academy’s 3rd Grade class took a field trip and helped sort toys. Then, the following day, my company, A. Martini & Co., volunteered in the afternoon. We are lucky to have the support of our colleagues on this journey.
Here are some photos of the set-up on Friday, prior to the doors opening on Saturday morning. There were people lined up outside on Friday night at 8PM to shop Saturday morning – it was incredible.
Play it Forward Pittsburgh’s Shop Day started at 8AM and by 3PM the tables were completely empty. (See below)
Also, Play it Forward was able to offer some statistics on the 2017 drive – please take a look, these are incredible:
Thank you – Thank you – Thank you! To every single person that contributed to this cause. Whether it was through our Stuff-a-Truck event or another donation location. Your time & toys helped give toys to 4,500 children! What an incredible way to GIVE this Christmas.
We are grateful for the opportunities that have come our way in 2017 that have allowed us to continue telling Toby’s story and spreading his JOY, not just across Pittsburgh, but across the nation. They have given us strength to continue. We truly believe that his story is far from over. It is up to us, as his parents, to carry his legacy.
We stand at the door of another year – without Toby in our arms. But their are pieces of my son everywhere I look. I hear them; I see them; I feel them. Thank you for helping us make it through 2017 with joy in our hearts.
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and JOY for 2018!
Dan, Katie, Lucas & Toby