Sarah’s Toybox—A Toybox Full of Hope
When Sarah Elisabeth was born six years ago, I could have scarcely imagined how her yet unfinished toy box would impact the lives of my family much less the lives of children in two communities nearby.
Sarah was born on November 12, 2009 and passed away three short days later. Her toy box that was being made lovingly by her Papa, who had made two similar toy boxes for my two nephews for their first Christmases, was unfinished. The conversation turned to the toy box and how my father was not sure he could finish the toy box as it would be a source of pain.
“Dad, whatever you decide is fine. If you want to wait and make it for our next child that is fine with me. ”
Spring came and with it the news that Dad was going to finish it. In June, my parents attended a fundraiser for my mother-in-law and spoke with a mutual friend Bruce. Bruce is the pastor at Love Christian Center in Farrell. He told them of some of the children his church ministered to and the heartbreaking stories of these children. He told me of a young girl named Ruth whose mother had died a few months before. I was touched by the story.
I said to Bruce, “My grandma’s name was Ruth.” I thought I am a mother without a child and Ruth is a child without a mother.” How I wanted to meet this youngster and love on her as I desperately wanted to love my child at that moment.
The next weekend was Independence Day and my parents hosted a picnic each year. They had come to our house to borrow folding chairs and while my dad and my husband loaded chairs, my mom and I spoke of Bruce’s conversations with us the previous weekend.
“What would you say if we did Sarah’s toy box for Bruce’s kids?”
“I like that idea.”
Over the next few days I composed a letter beginning what would be known as Sarah’s Toybox. Our first vision was to give children the kind of Christmases my husband and I had as children…toys and clothes. I wanted the Prayer of Jabez to be a model for our ministry.
The territory has expanded over the years. We have gone from distributing 40 bags the first year to distributing nearly 500 this past year. How we spread hope has changed as well. We don’t give toys and clothes out to the children. Instead, we distribute snack bags and school supplies that people donate. We have churches that partner with us to make blessing communities a reality. Sarah’s Butterflies Foundation, a fund bearing Sarah’s name through the Community Foundation of Northwestern PA and Eastern Ohio helps us manage monetary donations.
Sarah has blessed many lives even though, she is in Heaven. Her toy box does not hold toys, it holds hope. It holds the magic of love, encouragement, and perseverance. It holds the love of a grandfather for his first granddaughter. The hopes that the toy box would let her know he loved her immensely. Each December 26th, we spread hope and the love of God all because of a little girl and her toy chest full of hope.