“Dear Santa,

This year, for Christmas, I would like …”

It’s the typical opening for untold thousands of letters each December for the past two centuries. Tucked inside the envelopes, marked “North Pole,” are the Christmas wishes of boys and girls.

For the past 61 years, similar letters have been mailed by adults with Christmas wishes that hit a little closer to home. They’re sent to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, which works to provide a bit of holiday cheer for families that have fallen on hard times and need assistance to provide toys and clothing for their children, who might otherwise go without at Christmas.

The fund is made possible by readers of The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram. Some of those donors later find themselves in need of help.

“When I was a young girl, I would send some of my birthday money in to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund. The lessons I learned about giving have always been with me,” wrote one mother of three in Gorham, who 20 years later finds herself in need of a helping hand to make Christmas morning a little more special for her three children, ages 5, 3 and 8 months.

The woman and her husband work full time, plus any available extra hours, just to make ends meet. But they are living from paycheck to paycheck, with precious little left over each week.

“Although times are tough financially, we are a very happy family. My husband and I have been together for 12 years and our children are wonderful, polite and friendly. We saved our spare change all year to buy a tree. Now, we need some help in putting a few pretty packages beneath it,” wrote the mom.

An unemployed stone mason from Rockport also needs help to put gifts under the tree this year. He wrote, “I’m writing this letter with a lump in my throat while swallowing my stupid pride. I have been unable to find work for 14 months and have run out of unemployment benefits. I do not want to, nor do I know how to, tell my 6-year-old daughter why there will be no presents under the tree for her and her brother. I will cut the tree down from my yard and hang my pride over the mantel. I’m asking the Bruce Roberts Fund for help for my children and me.”

A 33-year-old mother in Portland, who wrote to Santa as a child, now finds herself living back at her parents’ home this Christmas, her 8-year-old daughter in tow. Mother and child need regular medical care. The mother, a diabetic, needs dialysis and help in administering her many medications, and the girl needs help for a heart defect that requires monthly doctor’s visits.

“My parents are already helping with our care,” said the young mom. “They can’t supply Christmas gifts, too. I just want to see my daughter smile on Christmas morning.”

Those sentiments are echoed by a single mother from Old Orchard Beach who is seeking help to make this Christmas merrier for her three sons, ages 1, 5 and 17.

A college graduate who cannot find work in her field of study, the mom waitresses to put food on the table while attempting to pay bills that far exceed her monthly income.

“I have student loans to pay back and major medical expenses from my oldest son’s heart surgery,” she said, noting that the boy likely will need a heart transplant in a few years.

This week, there were children who contacted the toy fund to help make Christmas merrier for some of the aforementioned adults.

The Bruce Roberts Toy Fund has received $475 from Cub Scout Pack 47 of Scarborough; $280 from the second-grade students in Mrs. Hawthorne’s and Mrs. Small’s classrooms at the Windham Primary School; $400 from Waynflete School seniors; and $50 from fourth-graders at the Manchester School in Windham. 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]


Here are the latest donations to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund:

Previously acknowledged: $79,312.06

Robert and Julie Carter $100

Anonymous $75

David and Susan Wheatland $100

Marcia and Peter Webber $35

Amvets Post No. 25  $100

Merry Christmas from the 12 C’s $120

Deering Pavilion Residents Council $50

Merry Christmas – The Deans $25

In memory of Don and Dorrice Stimpson $50

In loving memory of Babe and Podge $100

In memory of our loved ones – F.S. $25

In memory of Barry M. Campbell 1947–1995 $100

Barley, I love you, I miss you. – Nannie $50

Richard and Kimberly Brooks $100

In memory of loved ones – Marty and Donna Craine $25

Michael and Joanna Flanders $50

Mickey and Lori Roussin $100

Thomas and Mary Emerson $50

In loving memory of Father Coleman P. O’Toole – John H. Sullivan $25

Kathy and Chuck Degrace $35

From our grandchildren Jen, Kiely, Chris, Tyler, Andrew, Elizabeth, Josiah and Mary $50

In loving memory of Ben Clough –  his family $250

In loving memory of Seamus Nee – The Cloughs $25

In loving memory of Joe Bernier – The Cloughs $25

Julia Swan $25

MiKe Scott $30

Millie and Gillie $100

In memory of Cynthia Lawhorn Oja…the love goes on $75

Anonymous $25

Y.F.III and Sarah Hardcastle $100

The Schnapp/Almy family $100

In memory of my parents, Blanche and Fernald Goulette $50

Guinness and Luna $100

In loving memory of Helen J. Flaherty – RJM $53

Matthew and Jennifer Gilbert $100

In memory of Carroll and Doris Burbank $128

Theodore and Evelyn Brissette $35

Merry Christmas to Bruce and his helpers $100

In memory of Mattie – Tom and Ann Pelosi $100

In loving memory of Debra Chase O’Brion – Mom and Dad $100

In loving memory of Tony Sesto and Kay Nowak $100

Bob and Phyllis Wagstaff $100

Anonymous $100

The Cutler Family $50

In loving memory of my canine buddy, Symba – Vesta R. Rand $25

The Whelan Family $100

In memory of Kevin Durnin. God Bless him $30

Roger W. Dolan $50

In memory of Gatsby $50

In memory of Art R. Riley Jr., his father “Ray” Riley Sr. and “Larry” and Dot Reynolds. Memories of yesterday–Carol Riley $50

David and Kathy Hawkes of Ellsworth $20

North Yarmouth Woodworking  $75

Today’s total: $3,636

Total to date: $82,948.06