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Toy Fund: From a place of pain, positive action

  • Carol McMurrich and her husband, Greg Reynolds, sit with their daughter Aoife at their Westhampton home after discussing their donation to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. GAZETTE STAFF/EMILY CUTTS



@ecutts_HG
Thursday, November 30, 2017

WESTHAMPTON — In the years since the death of their daughter Charlotte Amelia, the initial pain felt by Carol McMurrich and her husband, Greg Reynolds, has been transformed into something else.

“I think that something that is true about people who experience loss ... is that loss produces gratitude in a lot of different ways, which doesn’t make up for the loss, but it causes you to sort of step back and count your blessings and feel appreciative of things you do have in your life,” McMurrich said.

The couple’s firstborn died during birth in May 2003, after the umbilical cord was compressed, cutting off the infant’s oxygen supply. The couple now has four children — Liam, 13, Aoife, 11, Fiona, 8, and Maeve, 6.

In recent years, the Westhampton couple has donated to the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in Charlotte’s name. They do it for a specific reason.

When a child dies, McMurrich said, questions like what they would have done and accomplished in their lives go unanswered.

“When your child dies, you don’t know the answers to any of those questions, but you sort of imagine and hope that maybe your child will still somehow make a mark on the world and that they will be remembered,” McMurrich said.

“I think that for us, doing things in Charlotte’s name is a way that we feel like she is continuing to have a presence in the world and in our children’s lives. Doing things that are helping other children or other families is obviously particularly meaningful.”

The Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund provides certificates redeemable at participating local retailers to eligible families who can use them to buy holiday gifts at participating stores.

The gratitude the couple now feels wasn’t immediate. McMurrich and Reynolds said that, for the first few years after Charlotte’s death, they struggled.

“In the same emotional place where right now it feels really sweet for me to imagine somebody picking out a gift that I donated in Charlotte’s name, that same emotional place would have felt so heartbreaking 14 years ago,” McMurrich said.

By donating, McMurrich and Reynolds said they are giving a gift not just to a child but to that child’s family.

“I also really like this fund because I like it that parents get to thoughtfully choose gifts for their children themselves, versus buying gifts and giving them to a toy drive,” McMurrich said.

Another benefit of donating, the couple says, is that their gift is recognized by the paper, providing a tangible way for their children to understand the significance of their gift.

“I know a lot of people donate anonymously but it’s really great that there is recognition,” Reynolds said. “It’s a donation with a real connection, with a real meaning. I’ve always felt like programs that help connect to people with their own experience, they are just more community building. They are just meaningful.”

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 at 220 Russell St., Suite 200 in Hadley, MA 01035, verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, so all donations go directly to the families.

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 N. 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 online at www.gazettenet.com.

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

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.