Nearly a year into the pandemic, it can be hard for anyone to remember what life was like before the isolation, the fear and the stress.

Imagine experiencing all this as a 10-year-old. Or a 6-year-old.

“They might feel like this is the way life will be forever,” said Rebecca Hoffman-Frances, senior director of Clinical Innovation and Training at Maine Behavioral Healthcare.

Hoffman-Frances is an expert on childhood trauma, and a big part of her job right now is helping families understand how the pandemic is affecting Maine children and how to help them through it.

A key partner in that effort is Steve DiGiovanni, a pediatrician and expert on adverse childhood experiences who is medical director for the Maine Medical Center Outpatient Clinics.

And what they are seeing and hearing from Maine families is reason for both concern and hope.


A big concern is the stress level that some families are experiencing.

“If there is a ton of fear and anxiety, … kids are going to feel that, too,” said Hoffman-Frances.

Events related to the pandemic such as job loss and unemployment, homelessness or an illness or death can generate toxic stress in a family, and that can harm a child’s health and brain development.

“The amount of stress that’s injected into a family unit can start to overwhelm,” said DiGiovanni.

What’s hopeful, however, is that children are resilient and can be protected from that kind of stress. And, the experts said, the families they work with are doing many things right to prevent it.

Parents, for example, are countering the isolation by preserving personal connections, and they’re building new routines to replace the old ones, they said.


Hoffman-Frances and DiGiovanni also agreed there is another simple tool that can help children at times like this: joy.

And that’s were the Press Herald Toy Fund comes in.

Making sure children have a holiday gift or a new toy to play with may seem unimportant with so many other needs, but it can make a powerful difference to a child, as well as a family, they said.

“If you are providing toys for these families, it will significantly reduce their stress,” said DiGiovanni.

And a toy is no small thing for 6-year-old or a 10-year-old, especially in the middle of  pandemic.

“The biggest job they have is to play and have fun. It’s important to their development,” said Hoffmann Frances.


And, she said, “Kids need joy right now.”

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 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:


JOCIJIANNA for 71 consecutive years! $500
In loving memory of Marthann Hartford, from Buzz & Sandra Hartford  $50
In loving memory of Raymond & Iola Leavitt  $50
In loving memory of Leslie & Belinda Gray  $50
In memory of Laurence S. Allen Sr. and Lou F. (Allen) Nichols. From Beverly, Missy, Larry, Donna & Lonnie Allen  $50
In memory of Mom & Pop Perry, from Beverly & Lonnie Allen  $50
In memory of Mrs. Sally Simpson, from Beverly & Lonnie Allen  $50
Riley Family Fund $200
In memory of E & L Joy and A & P Gilpatrick  $25
In memory of Cathy Kilburn, from Polly Kenniston $25
In loving memory of George & Frances Smith, from your daughter, Theresa  $30
Edith Ellis  $100
Thanks to the Maine Millennial for her inspiration and excellent columns – Marjorie Stone $30
John Cavallaro  $100
Marjorie & Thomas Berman  $200
Thomas Hickey $50
Linda Hanscom $75
In memory of Bernard and Bertha Garland  $100
From John Bennett & Abby Snyder $100
Jane & Davis Hartwell $200
From Peter & Gail $50
James & Maureen Goeman $2,000
Merry Christmas! Paul & Tracey Greenwood  $200
Lance Browne  $200
From Alex, Brendan, and Nicholas Lorello $225
Merry Christmas! Rusty and Sally Bennett $250
In memory of Betty, Robert, and Margaret $200
In loving memory of my grandson, Will  $300
Kirk & Paula Purdy $300
In loving memory of Emmons and Joan Johnson  $200
In loving memory of Janr E. Quirk & Quirkie, 4150
From the employees of NEER – Wyman $350
Robert L Luke, M.D. $500
In memory of Sally Grover and George Warhol, two very special people.  $100
In memory of Ellen Baldwin $30
Frances Caswell $100
Judth Jagger  $100
Anonymous  $50
In memory of Steven R. Chamberlain  $100
In memory of Woody, Janice and Julie  $200
ALLE $50
From Nick, Sage, Sierra, Arianna, Sophia, Hassen, & Iman  $50
Michael & Mary Booth $75
Judith Pearl  $50
In memory of Ron B from M.C.  $100
In memory of our parents. From Tom & Linda $100
In loving memory of Ann, Dick – Pat Hall and Doris Handy $50
Leon & Paula Cooper  $100
In memory of our niece Robin Hurst, from Win and Linda Gillis  $50
In memory of our parents. From David & Barbara Sawyer  $200
In gratitude for all we have  $100
Ann Guay  $50
Anonymous  $50
From Lily & Misty $100
In memory of my mother  $200
In memory of my mom, Ruth Hamm, who donated every year; I miss her so much, Mary Turner  $100
Stephen Naculich & Mary M. O’Brien $75
Lorna Dorsey $25
In memory of Andrew Campbell  $100
Anonymous $200
Anonymous $100
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays! From Russ Lunt  $20
From Dan & Ruthann Baker  $100
Leanne Morin  $50
Merry Christmas, Debbie & Gary Higgins, Love Pam & Bob  $100
In memory of Bill Murphy $30
Clifford & Debra Walker $150
David & Sandra Michniewicz $200
In honor of the Westbrook HS classmates of 1968 who meet once a week! $35
In memory of my mother and father, Frank & Helen O’Connor, by Louise O’Connor  $100
Mark Roy $100
In memory of Jeanne Mayberry, who is a true Christmas Angel  $100
In memory of Pearl & Edmund Conley, Norman & Alda Roy, Merry Christmas! From JoAnne & David Roy  $50
Julia Pew  $50
In memory of Tom Rowe $100
From Nick, Dana and Matt $100
Susan Ross-Wentworth  $35
Tom & Cathy Masterson $100
Merry Christmas! $100
Sandra Schultz $25
Patrick & Sharon Lee $100
Merry Christmas! Leo & Diane  $50
In loving memory of my husband Tom, Gram & Papa, and my Mom … Patty  $200
Deborah Auclair  $50
Merry Xmas from Jim & Kathy & Ryan $150
Melanie & David Paul $50
William Jabine III $25
In loving memory of Eddie Gramlich & Paul Taylor $20
Jeanne & Eugene King $50
Henry & Linda Salzler $200

Total donations year to date: $147,491.25

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