‘A gentle, loving soul’: Parents donate to Toy Fund in memory of son

  • A family photo of Jarrad Parkin.  COURTESY OF BRUCE PARKIN

  • A family photo of Jarrad Parkin, who died of an overdose in January 2018. COURTESY OF BRUCE PARKIN

Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2019 4:11:11 PM

SHUTESBURY — Christmas was never Jarrad Parkin’s favorite holiday.

According to his father, Bruce Parkin, Jarrad was disillusioned by the holiday’s over-commercialization — not to mention, he would incessantly stress over buying the right gift for his mom, Georgianna Parkin, and his dad.

But Jarrad, who died at the age of 42 ​​​in January 2018 from a heroin overdose, would put aside his personal opinion of Christmas to make sure he gave to those in need during the holidays, his father said.

“He recognized the good of giving,” Bruce Parkin said of Jarrad. “He made sure to either buy a toy and give it to Toys for Tots, or some other toy fund to make sure those in need got something on Christmas.”

Since Jarrad’s death, the Parkins have made a point to donate yearly to the Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund. To them, it’s a way to keep the memory of their altruistic son alive.

“We get the Gazette every day, and we see some of the giving,” Bruce Parkin said. “We thought that was the best way to continue his tradition of giving to kids in the area.”

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.

Jarrad’s story of opioid addiction echoes the struggle endured by many Americans dealing with the disease. A football injury precipitated a degenerative back problem, his father said, which was only to be made worse by a car crash in which Jarrad was hit head-on.

For more than eight years, Jarrad was prescribed morphine for his pain. Unable to continue working as a maintenance supervisor for a landscaping company and faced with his health insurance provider cutting back on his medication, Jarrad turned to heroin, a cheaper alternative.

Bruce and Georgianna suspected Jarrad had started using heroin, but they didn’t know he was addicted to it until he died.

“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Bruce said.

Bruce said he and Georgianna remember Jarrad as a man with “a gentle, loving soul” who cared a great deal about his family, friends and others.

“He really did have a sense of helping people,” Georgianna said. “He would give $10 or $20 to people who were on the street.”

Bruce said Jarrad loved to fish, owning an exhaustive collection of lures and rods. A music fanatic, Jarrad also loved playing video games, he added.

High on Jarrad’s list of favorite holidays were Thanksgiving and Easter, Bruce said, adding that since his son fancied himself a cook, he would take over preparations for the family’s turkey dinner. Although he wasn’t religious, Easter was a time for family and the beginning of spring — Jarrad loved both, Bruce said.

Georgianna said that as long as she and her husband live in the area, they plan on giving to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in remembrance of Jarrad.

“He felt better doing something good for somebody,” Georgianna said.

Families eligible for the Toy Fund must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury, and Leverett, and 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; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 367 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 Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co. 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke; and Children’s Museum at Holyoke, 444 Dwight St., Holyoke.

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 gazettenet.com.

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

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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