Many of the parents who seek help from the Press Herald Toy Fund open up about their families’ hardships in notes and letters as if confiding to an old friend.

Some of those notes are shared with the newspaper, always with the parents’ permission and the names and identifying information removed.

“I am a full-time student, mom and wife,” a mother of three children from southern Maine wrote in a note attached to her application for help. “We have a very limited income and my husband is a seasonal landscaper. Christmas is a challenging time for all of us. We’ve had losses and hardships happen to us, but we’re grateful to have each other during the holidays.

“(My son’s) father committed suicide three years ago and he has since struggled with depression and … spent some time in a pediatric psychiatric facility earlier this year. He has made great strides in overcoming internal obstacles and is settling into (school) nicely,” she wrote. She goes on to explain how proud she is and to share her worries about disappointing her son and her other children in the coming days.

“I really want to make this Christmas special,” she wrote. “While they all believe in Santa, they also deserve a Christmas that (matches) their hard work and perseverance through the year, and that’s where you come in. I need your help and I’m not too proud to ask if it helps my kids have a wonderful holiday.”

THE PRESS HERALD TOY FUND in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts uses donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Now in its 69th year, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

APPLICATIONS can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 or 791-6600 to have one mailed to you.

DONATIONS to help buy the toys can be made at pressheraldtoyfund.org or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

SEE MORE STORIES about the fund at pressherald.com/press-herald-toy-fund/.

TODAY’S DONATIONS

Marcia Campbell $35

Happy Holidays from Russ Lunt $25

In memory of my Mom, Thelma Gould $25

Robert Kraus & Barbara Gauditz $200

In gratitude and appreciation for all we have $100

Linda Michaels $100

Merry Christmas!!! Tom & Judy $100

Leon & Paula Cooper $100

Anonymous $100

In loving memory of Ruth Bennett and Elmer Constant $100

Happy Holidays! Jim Foley $100

Charles & Gail Mason $100

Anonymous $25

Newell & Suzanne Augur $100

In loving memory of Bill Bragdon, our parents Bill & Toni McDonough and Harold & Victoria Bragdon. From Carol McDonough Bragdon $50

Joseph Fagone $50

Merry Christmas from Helen L. Peterson $20

In memory of Rose & Ralph $50

In memory of Bob Davis, with love from Betsy $50

Cynthia Clement $50

To benefit those in need, from Donna & Greg Barmore $100

Total for year $45,299


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