Gazette’s Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund marks 90th year 

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

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2022 7:39:39 PM
Modified: 11/23/2022 7:39:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Nearly a quarter century since Dana Brigham died from colon cancer, his memory continues to be marked annually by his sister with a gift to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Scottie Faerber of Amherst said the donations to both the Toy Fund and the Boston Globe Santa is about honoring the sibling she was so close to before his passing in 1998.

“Dana married briefly and happily in his short life, and loved children, but never had any, so it seems just right to remember him by annual gifts to these special funds which benefit children for the holidays,” Faerber said.

Similarly, Luann Brown of Easthampton makes a contribution to the Toy Fund to remember her mother, Lee Karakula, who died in 2020.

“My mom passed a couple years ago and my Dad wanted to do something in her memory, so we started donating to the Toy Fund and will continue to do so as soon as we can,” Brown said.

Paying tribute to loved ones is just one of the reasons people offer for contributing to the Toy Fund, beginning its 90th year.

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 $50 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. 

Gazette Publisher Shawn Palmer said he is pleased the Gazette continues to administer the drive.

“It says something about the strength of a program that it has continued, true to its mission, for so many years,” Palmer said. “I believe that because it was established for members of the community to help one another is why it has been successful for so long.”

The Toy Fund brought in $66,427 last year, continuing a trend of collecting more to meet the need in area communities. 

“I am proud that we continue to do our part to spread some cheer to our neighbors every holiday season,” Palmer said.

The Gazette collects all applications from families, which were due Nov. 15, mails out all vouchers and takes in all donations.

Patti Wasilewski, the Gazette’s business office manager, said that between 900 and 1,000 vouchers are expected to be sent out that can be used at a variety of local stores for anything from clothing and toys to books and games.

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; 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., and 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke.

The messages that come with donations capture some of the sentiments for making donations.

“I know what it's like not to get Christmas presents, especially when others you know get them. Thank you for doing this,” wrote Jennifer of Westhampton.

Another note, from Marisa and Marty, states simply, “in honor of all those who love and care for children.”

Faerber said her brother was also a writer, traveler, mountain climber and runner, and he fell in love with his oncology nurse, and they had a short but very happy life together. It was during his military service the Faerber said Brigham showed his love and compassion toward the young.

“When he was in the Army in the 1970s, stationed in Korea, Dana became involved with an orphanage there, and loved getting to know the children,” Faerber said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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