×

Toy Fund: Putting toys under the tree, in memory



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 07, 2017

Two-year-old Lynn Baceski lost her life from meningitis, a swelling in her brain caused by a bacterial infection. She went to bed one night, a seemingly healthy child, and by noon the next day she was gone.

“It happens so suddenly, there is no warning,” her mother, June Baceski, said recently.

That was 54 years ago, but the pain of her child’s death still feels fresh, she said. Baceski and her husband, Joe, went on to have two other children, but they still think every day about the one they lost.

Black and white photos of Lynn, a girl with big hazel eyes and blond wispy hair, are mounted on their living room wall. A smiling photo of her is safely tucked inside Joe Baceski’s wallet.

Around Christmastime, the parents donate to the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in honor of Lynn, to help families in need buy toys during the holiday season. It’s a tradition they have kept for more than 25 years, contributing between $50 and $100 every year.

“I would like people to not forget that I had another daughter, although she died very young,” said June Baceski.

When the couple’s niece Beth Kozera died young at age 34 from juvenile diabetes in 1999, they also started donating in her name. “It’s not only my husband who has lost a child. His sister has, too,” said June. “When you lose a child, your life is never the same.”

There was never a shortage of presents under the Christmas tree in the Baceski household, but the couple is well aware not all children are so lucky.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like for some kids not to have anything,” said Joe Baceski.

They read about the Toy Fund decades ago in the Gazette, he said, and it has since become one of their favorite ways to give back. “It’s comforting to be able to help just a little bit.”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the toy fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. The money is distributed in the form of $40 vouchers to families who might not otherwise be able to buy holiday gifts for their children.

Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett.

Berkshire Children & Families in Hadley verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 341 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 201 North Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Dept. Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop/Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at or mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through Gazettenet at www.gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

“It feels good that we can help in a small way for someone who really needs a gift for Christmas,” said Joe Baceski.

Lisa Spear can be reached at Lspear@gazettenet.com.