Toy Fund: Northampton family gives to honor an ‘incredible’ friend

  • Sidney F. Smith, ca. 1962.

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2021 4:36:43 PM
Modified: 11/26/2021 4:36:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Susan Kohler-Gray’s son Ian Mathew Gray died in 2013 of synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, at the age of 29.

“He was incredibly creative and caring,” she said. “He lived his life to the fullest.”

Following his death, Kohler-Gray began regularly donating to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in his honor.

Ian Gray was born at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, grew up in Northampton and graduated from Northampton High School. While in Northampton, his mother noted, he was involved in inline skating.

“He was an incredible friend,” Kohler-Gray said. “He was great to be around.”

Kohler-Gray said her son was a footwear designer at Vans in southern California, and had designed his own line of shoes before age 30.

“He was still designing a shoe up until the last week before he died,” Kohler-Gray said.

Her son married Katia Elena Gray shortly before his passing. Gray was also an avid surfer, and his ashes were scattered in the ocean.

When her son was 10 years old, he heard an ad for the Toy Fund on the radio and asked for them to donate to it, Kohler-Gray said.

“He thought that was something we needed to do,” she said.

Kohler-Gray said she subsequently did so for several years, resuming donations after Gray’s death because it was something he’d cared about as a young person.

Kohler-Gray is one of many regular donors to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

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, or in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

CSO-The Bridge Family Resource Center at 101 University Drive in Amherst 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; 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; Plato’s Closet, 1472 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, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co., 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

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