Gordon Corkum was a man who knew how important it is to give children something to smile about at the holidays.

Casey and Gordon Corkum Corkum family photo

Corkum was the director of the Press Herald Toy Fund for many years, making sure thousands of Maine children had gifts to unwrap each holiday season. Twenty years ago, after a busy season distributing gifts to some 8,000 children, he was the subject of a newspaper column under the headline: “I’ve met Santa Claus and he wears a cowboy hat.”

It was obvious to his volunteer helpers that Corkum cared deeply, maybe because he knew what it meant to the children on the receiving end. He had grandkids who had been helped by the fund when their parents couldn’t afford to buy gifts.

Corkum, a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a business manager in the Portland area, died in May at the age of 77. He left a wife of 57 years, Dianne, as well as three daughters, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

His legacy also includes his years as steward of the toy fund, which has now brightened children’s holidays for 71 years.

The fund uses donations from newspaper readers and community leaders to buy gifts for children of all races and religions who would otherwise go without because of circumstances beyond their control, from everyday financial struggles to lost jobs, divorces, illnesses or the death of a family member.

A number of donations have already arrived in memory of Corkum. One stands out.

Town Fair Tire, a chain of 100 tire stores in New England, decided this year to donate to local charities in communities across the region as its way of helping families during the pandemic. The manager of each store was asked to choose a local charity to receive $1,000.

As it happens, the manager of the Biddeford story is Casey Corkum, grandson of Gordon Corkum.

It didn’t take long for Casey to decide to donate the Biddeford store’s $1,000 check to the toy fund.

He remembers the years when his grandfather devoted so much energy to the charity. “The loss of my grandfather was what made it pop up in my head,” Casey Corkum said.

He also has a more direct connection to the fund, one he learned about years later.

“These were my Christmas presents growing up as a young kid. … My parents didn’t have much growing up,” said Casey Corkum, who now has three sons of his own.

Town Fair Tire’s generous gift in Corkum’s memory comes at a critical time for the fund, which has stepped up fundraising efforts to meet an expanded need during the pandemic.

• 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 71st year, the fund is accepting applications for toys from needy families in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Androscoggin, Lincoln and Knox counties.

• 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, call 791-6672 or go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

TODAY’S DONORS

In memory of Granna Hilly & Woody  $100
Thomas E. Cook  $100
Anonymous  $10
Anonymous  $300
For kids in need  $150
Barbara Inman  $25
Anne & Bob Hall  $100
Benjamin & Mary Pratt  $100
Sarah & Daniel Drake  $100
In loving memory of Doris Lyons – Gracie & Dick  $100
Bruce & Lorraine Hirdler  $100
Winnings from Gritty’s Cribbage League – Eric, Martha & Leslie  $500
Always remembering you, Val  $100
In memory of my mother, Fedora Nicol, who loved all children  $100
Arla Cohen  $20
For Christmas toys  $20
Richard McGoldrick  $5,000
Nancy Maki  $15
Steven Thomas  $50
Linda Stevens  $20
Barbara Reed  $50
Sally Richardson  $25
Harry Konkel  $100
Merry Christmas to those less fortunate, from Finnegan, Abbie, Declan, Julia  $50
In memory of Beulah Green & Alan “Pop” Goddard, with love from Rhonda & Ron Green   $100
Brendan and Pippin  $30
Anonymous  $100
Elaine Cote  $50
Beverly Baker  $50
In honor of Victoria Hugo-Vidal, my favorite PPH/MST columnist  $100
Thanks to all that help this happen each year. Stay safe. Robert & Becky Malley  $50
Thanks for this wonderful charity!  $250
George & Elizabeth Moberg  $100
Susan & Steven Bremner  $100
In memory of Don Hawkes  $25
Dylan – Sam – AJ $100
Barbara & Scott Seaver  $100
Pamela Baldwin  $50
Pay it forward  $50
Jane & Thomas Johnson  $200
Marc & Martha Gagne  $200
Rachel & Steven Hendrickson  $100
Kathy & Michael Camire  $100
Anonymous  $100
Chris & Alan Willemsen  $100
Anonymous  $50
Anonymous  $100
Lorraine Pregenzer  $150
In honor of Earl & Wilma, who made Christmas special!  $100

Year-to-date total: $32,430

Comments are not available on this story.