Bringing smiles from miles away: California transplant donates to Toy Fund in honor of grandparents  

  • Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962.   FILE PHOTO

  • Edward T. Heaphy, Sr. (1898-1978) and Helen C. Heaphy (1899-1976), of Northampton. —SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2020 5:53:53 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When children are born, it is usually their parents who name them. But in many cases, those children soon have the opportunity to give their own family members whatever new names they can think of and pronounce.

Matthew Heaphy’s older brother christened their grandparents “Beba” and “Gaga.” And because Heaphy’s brother was the first grandchild, the names stuck from then on.

“Those were the first names that came,” Heaphy said with a laugh. “They’re kids’ names.”

Beba and Gaga were Edward and Helen Heaphy, longtime Northampton residents. Matthew Heaphy grew up in Amherst and was always familiar with his grandparents’ community involvement in the city. His grandfather, for example, was president of the Northampton Institution for Savings and of Childs Park.

So when Heaphy, 45, began donating to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund some years ago, it was in their memory that he gave. 

Heaphy’s memories of his grandparents are limited. They died in the 1970s when he was young. But he said he remembers them being warm and generous people.

“I remember visiting them at their house and playing with them and reading stories together,” he said.

And, because some of his most vivid memories of Beba and Gaga are from the holidays, he thought of them when he first heard about the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

“It just struck a chord with me and made me think of my grandparents and their generosity in the Valley,” Heaphy said. 

Heaphy said it’s hard to think of a Christmas without toys, so he has donated to the Toy Fund consistently, even though he lives on the other side of the country in California.

“Even though I live 2,000 miles away, I like to put some smiles on faces,” he said.

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14. Eligible families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, or in Holyoke in Hampden County. 

18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield verifies families’ eligibility, and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Blue Marble/Little Blue, 150 Main St., Level 1, Northampton: Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; High Five Books, 141 N. Main St., Florence; The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Once Upon A Child,1458 Riverdale St., West Springfield; Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 W. Bay Road, Amherst; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child Toy Store, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St.No. 1, Holyoke. 

Donations to the Toy Fund may be mailed to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made online at

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

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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