Donors’ gift honors girl lost to cancer

  • Bella Price-Slade, seen here with one of her favorite toys. Bella died at the age of 12 on Dec. 6, 2015. Family friends Gretchen and Karen Browne-Courage donated to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund in her honor. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2021 8:00:03 PM
Modified: 12/20/2021 7:59:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When Gretchen Browne-Courage thinks about who she admires, Bella Price-Slade recently jumped to the front of her mind.

Price-Slade, of Northampton, died in 2015 after a battle with cancer. She was only 12 years old.

“She just had a positive spirit throughout her life and really had a good strong sense of herself,” Browne-Courage, a family friend, said. “She was just her own unique person.”

So when she donated this year to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund, Browne-Courage knew exactly who she wanted to honor with her donation: “our young friend, Bella.”

“Bella, she loved her toys,” Browne-Courage said. “She was so creative.”

City residents Gretchen and Karen Browne-Courage were two of many who donated to the Toy Fund to honor the memory of a loved one who has passed away. This year, the two also donated in honor of Charlie Braun, the talented local musician who was struck and killed by a car while he was riding his bicycle near Northampton High School.

“I kind of like holding people up in the way of giving donations in their name,” Browne-Courage said.

The two also donated last year in honor of their first grandchild, Luke, who was born in May 2020 during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, it was a little more difficult to see Luke and his parents, Stephen and Corey, Browne-Courage said. But they made it work, driving from western Massachusetts to New York City, where they would see their loved ones outside in Riverside Park in Manhattan.

“It took quite a while before we were all vaccinated,” Browne-Courage said. “Then I felt like I could really play with him more.”

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.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
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