Sometimes there’s no one reason a parent feels forced to ask for help at the holidays.

It’s just life, an economy that leaves some families behind, and a desire to let children be children a little longer.

“I am a single father of two boys,” a man from the midcoast wrote to the fund. “I work full time. However, my expenses exceed my income. This is not due to having extras. This is just living expenses and car insurance – actual, normal bills. I barely make it paycheck to paycheck.”

His boys are 13 and 11, and he doesn’t want real life to ruin their Christmas. “I really don’t like asking for help, but I do want my boys to wake up with a smile Christmas morning.”

The fund is getting many similar notes from parents who say they’re healthy and working hard, but just can’t keep up.

“I am a single mother with a 6-year-old daughter,” a woman wrote the fund. “I work as a certified nursing assistant. My income versus any extra expenses above the regular – rent, electric, auto, insurance, gas, food – leaves me with nothing much to give my child a Christmas deserving of any child. I go to a food bank in my town twice a month just to have food in my house. I struggle constantly to make ends meet. To receive this help would be such a blessing.”

The generosity of newspaper readers they’ve never met means both parents, and many more, will be able to provide holiday joy to children who deserve nothing less.

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, mailed to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

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