PORTLAND – Close your eyes and think back to that feeling of waking up early on Christmas morning.

Do you remember sneaking out of bed and tip-toeing down the stairs, thrilled by the sight of the gifts that Santa left under the tree?

In three days, thousands of children across Maine will wake up to the same thrill, thanks to the work of the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, which buys gifts for children in need.

But next year may be a different story.

The fund uses donations from readers of The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram to buy gifts, and this year’s contributions are not keeping up. As of today, the fund has collected $86,267. Toys cost more than $200,000 each year.

Organizers of the toy fund say it will need a surge in donations to continue serving the growing number of families who ask for help each year.

Otherwise, “we would have to cut back on the number of toys we buy,” said Kathleen Meade, the fund’s director. “Unfortunately, the kids are the ones who will suffer if the donations don’t come in.”

Last year’s effort brought in a record $260,000, which was used to buy new, safe and age-appropriate toys for children in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties.

Those who are being helped by donations this year include a single mother from Gorham who has two children. She wrote to Bruce Roberts asking for assistance this Christmas.

“I know there are a lot of people in the same situation as myself,” she said. “If it wasn’t for people’s donations, a lot of children would go without at Christmas. Thank you from all of us.”

A family in Portland with two young children also asked for help. She is a school secretary and her husband was laid off from his job in November.

“To say things have been difficult for us would be an understatement,” she wrote. “This will not be a Christmas like we’ve had in the past. My only hope is that the kids will have something to open under the tree Christmas morning.”

For the past 61 years, stories like theirs have appeared in the Press Herald and Telegram to draw attention to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund and its goal of helping Maine families.

To make a contribution, go to www.pressherald.com and click on the present to connect to the toy fund’s page. Readers can also send donations to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com

LATEST DONATIONS

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

Previously acknowledged: $82,948.06

Patrick Perreault $100

Mr. and Mrs. Paul Dexter $50

In memory of Whitfield Steele — William Steele $50

In honor of Rhonda Schaefer — Gerald LaSala $25

In memory of Janice Regan — Arthur Regan $100

In honor of Ms. Brett, Rachael, Hayden, Ava and Jack Emery — David and Sandra Dickison $100

In memory of Larry, Claire and Bob Willett — Clover Jordan $100

In memory of Ellen Graham — Patricia Pugisi $25

In memory of Bayley — Samuel Merrill $50

Susan Thomas $500

OA Centers For Orthopaedics Staff and Physicians $434

In memory of Bill and Elise Hunnewell — John Hunnewell $40

In memory of Brent Churchill — Mark Fairbanks $100

Sara Connolly $25

Mr. and Mrs. Neil Townsend Jr. $200

Dr. Michael Miller $1,000

Shawn Elliott $25

Philip Pedro $100

Craig Lindsay $25

In memory of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hackett — Mr. John Hackett $50

In memory of Audrey and John Hochadel — Betsy Hochadel $20

Derek Berg $200

Today’s total: $3,319

Total to date: $86,267.06