When he was seven years old, Neponset’s Mark Murphy heard the news that a Toys for Tots trailer had been broken into. “He was upset and wanted to do something; he just thought that every child should have a present at Christmas,” explained his mother, Dawn.
And do something he has: For the last 11 years, Mark has organized a holiday season toy drive in his community. This year, of course, offered a special challenge: The pandemic’s effects on the economy presented obstacles to fundraising efforts, and he knew that the extraordinary circumstances meant an even greater need for the Christmas toys he had been delivering for more than a decade of holiday seasons.
“It was definitely different,” said Murphy, a 17-year-old student at The Cambridge Matignon School. “There are a lot of people out of jobs right now, so it was tougher to ask for donations. We had to think of more creative ways to raise money. The [kids] needed it this year more than ever.”
One of his team’s most successful fundraising efforts came in the form of “football squares,” a Patriots-themed raffle whereby people could donate $5 to buy one or more squares on a numbered grid, with the final scores determining a winner at random. That popular initiative raised the bulk of funds, with Murphy’s school, sports teams, and family members chipping in to round out the fundraising efforts.
In total, Murphy raised around $3,500, allowing him to donate 425 toys to ABCD, the local nonprofit with which he partners each year to distribute the toys.
Once the money was raised, Murphy and his younger brother Michael spent three hours at the store, filling carriages with a variety of toys for kids of all ages from babies to teens. Delivering the gifts to ABCD knowing that they will brighten the holidays for needy children makes the whole operation worthwhile, said Murphy.
“The most rewarding part is knowing you’re giving these kids a chance to open something on Christmas, when they might not usually get to,” he said.
The Murphy family had been planning to host a larger fundraising event such as a Fun Run or charity sports match this year, but saw those plans scuttled by the pandemic. Next year, they hope to host a larger community event and meet their goal of 500 toys.