December 12, 2010

Bruce Roberts Toy Fund: Struggling parents try to brighten holiday for supportive kids

By J. Hemmerdinger
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Having kids around can make even the toughest situations seem more manageable for struggling adults.


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

Previously acknowledged: $31,029

11/26/10 Portland Pirates vs. Springfield Falcons hockey game $852

12/07/10 Portland Pirates vs. Worcester Sharks hockey game $366.50

12/03/10 Maine Red Claws vs. Fort Wayne Mad Ants 50/50 $500

Skillin's Greenhouses/Red Claws event $740

In memory of Caoimhe $1,000

In memory of Art Lester $500

In honor of Kim, Sue and Paul, Dick and Jean, Kel and Eline, KC and Elise and Grandmother. Merry Christmas -- Dick and Evie $500

In memory of M.K. Higgins, who loved children everywhere $500

E. James and Eileen P. Ferland $300

In memory of those I love -- SMK $25

In loving memory of Frank and Rick $20

Lori and James Boyle $25

In memory of Mark Evans Ware $100

In memory of Mark Sarapas, "Shadow Santa" $80

Chester Plummer $30

Wishing all children could have a Merry Christmas -- Maine Association of School Psychology $100

Merry Christmas -- Kathleen C. Potrepka $50

In memory of loved ones -- Arlene Tyler $25

To help make Christmas happy for someone $25

T.C. and D.R. Mathieu $100

Paul and Ellen Regan $100

In memory of my brother, Peter -- Connie Ortolani $100

Peter Murray $100

In memory of Pearl and Edmund Conley and Norman Roy -- JoAnne and David Roy $50

In lieu of gifts for our doctors -- happy holidays! Casco Bay EyeCare Scarborough team $40

Anonymous $50

Jane M. Mullen $25

In loving memory of Blanche Huntley (G.G.), Louis Peters (Gramps) and Virgil Plaisted Sr. (Pa) -- John and Linda Peters $75

In memory of PTW, APW, Tom, Raelyn and Krista $30

In memory of Jeanne and George Marois, from daughter Theresa $200

In memory of Evangeline, James and Vernon Williams, from the boys $200

Whitney and Maria Gabriel Drake $250

In memory of James and Eleanor Kehoe and Raymond Davignon $150

In loving memory of our beloved Bentley, Danny Bellino and the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Haldane Sr., Merry Christmas -- Dave and Cathy $100

In memory of John Calnan $100

In loving memory of Jason A. Yates $30

Anonymous $50

Charles and Marylee Dodge $100

In memory of my cat, Muffy Tully $10

Marthena Hackenberg $35

M. and R.J. LoBuglio $50

In honor of James, Janea, Joseph and Jacob Bertsch -- Lori Benson $100

Merry Christmas from K.A.K. $30

In loving memory of Chud, who loved children $25

In loving memory of Uncle Bob $50

In memory of Maurice McCarthy $25

In loving memory of my husband, Leland Fisk, from Peg $25

In memory of Lora A. Lemanski $50

In memory of John J. Curran Sr., Paul W. Curran and Annie B. Arbeely $100

In memory of Jim Donahue -- Joe and Judy $100

In memory of Grammy and Grampy Sandberg $25

The Lappins $25

In loving memory of Dick and Mary Schumacher and Rick Beckwith -- Ed and Inge $50

In memory of Mark Buotte -- Love, Mom, Kathy and Bruce $50

Jeanne F. Kinney $100

Judith Weisman $36

Today's total: $8,474.50

Total to date: $39,503.50

That's why many Maine parents in trying situations want nothing more than to give their kids a gift this holiday season.

But for jobless parents, those living paycheck to paycheck or struggling with medical problems, holiday gifts might not be in the budget.

Many in that situation have applied to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund for gifts to show their children how much they care.

The toy fund buys gifts for children in need with money donated from readers of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. The fund helps Mainers in Cumberland, York, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties.

A divorced father from Bridgton with an 8-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son wants to give his kids gifts so they know he appreciates their love and support.

But he can't afford even the smallest present.

In June, he lost his job and his home and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis -- all in the same week.

Though everything seemed to be going wrong, his kids kept his spirits alive. "My son stayed by my side and told me every day that as long as we stuck together we would be OK," he wrote in his application. "It doesn't sound like much, but it was his words that pulled me through."

The father wants to put a smile on the face of his daughter, too, who is still struggling with the divorce.

"She feels like she is an object that gets passed back and forth -- yet she is so much more than that," he wrote.

Another Bruce Roberts applicant, a mother from Standish, said her 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter also struggle with her divorce from their father, which happened in October. Also this year, the family dog and the kids' great-grandmother died, and their grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.

"It has been a very rough year for the kids," she wrote. "It's just been a horrible windfall of things."

Through it all, the kids have been strong, and their resilience is contagious, she wrote. "They have done so well through everything and given me strength every day with their smiles, hugs and kisses."

Like other Bruce Roberts applicants, the Standish mother wants to give back to her kids. But her monthly income doesn't even cover her household expenses.

She doesn't like to ask for help -- "I've never had to do this before," she wrote -- but she and her family face a giftless Christmas.

"They really deserve more than what I or my (ex-husband) can do for them. I only hope that you could help us this year so that my kids can truly believe in Santa," she wrote.

Some parents are working tirelessly to make a better life for their families, and are succeeding. The father from Bridgton recently found a new job, for example.

And a mother with mental health issues from Limerick recently moved with her two boys, a 17-year-old and 14-year-old, from transitional shelter housing in York County to their own apartment.

They receive help with housing expenses from Maine's Bridging Rental Assistance Program, which assists Mainers with psychiatric disabilities. Under the program, participants pay 51 percent of their income toward housing; BRAP pays the rest.

Their new home is a big improvement, and the family has "stayed together through it all," the mother wrote, but her monthly income is only $1,000.

She has no money left for holiday gifts.

"My focus is on keeping our housing and (paying bills), which leaves no money for extras. Any help would be appreciated," she wrote.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:


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