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Local students’ holiday spirit is contagious

by Jamie Chase Galvin

Sterling fifth graders Kaitlyn Archambeault and Ava Poirier have brought the holiday spirit to both Chocksett Middle School and to those in need this holiday season. Deciding they wanted to give back to the community, the middle schoolers sought a way to help those less fortunate. Deciding a toy drive would fit the bill, Ava and Kaitlyn worked in conjunction with the Elizabeth Todorov Toy Drive to bring cheer to those around them. The Elizabeth Todorov Toy Drive is held every year to benefit the Child Life Program at UMass Memorial Medical Center, bringing toys to children who are in the hospital suffering serious trauma or life-threatening illnesses.

“This summer, Ava and I decided we wanted to help someone,” says 10-year-old Kaitlyn Archambeault. “We came up with the idea of having a toy drive. We asked [Chocksett Middle School principal] Mr. LaBreck if we could do it at the school and he said yes. He introduced us to Shawn and Emily [Todorov] and the other people who help the toy drive.”

“We were thinking of how we could help others and it went from possibly helping out animal shelters to raising toys for Toys for Tots,” adds 11-year-old Ava Poirier. “Our moms helped us find the Elizabeth Todorov Toy Drive. I loved the idea of helping kids in the hospital during Christmas.”

Armed with a desire to give back and a plan, Kaitlyn and Ava ran full steam ahead with organizing the toy drive. “Their energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s exciting to see young people so passionate about helping others,” says principal Chris LaBreck.

The girls collected toys at Chocksett from November 28 to December 16. Their hope was to collect hundreds of toys for kids in the hospital to enjoy during the holidays and year round.

“My hopes are that all the children will feel at home with the gifts they receive and that they’ll feel no different from other children, and not feel sad because they’re in the hospital,” says Kaitlyn.

“My hope for this toy drive was to have kids help out other kids who can’t be home with their families during the holidays and to put a smile on kids’ faces during a difficult time in their life,” says Ava.

The Elizabeth Todorov Toy Drive began in 2002 by Elizabeth Todorov who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time and saw a need to bring cheer to kids who were hospitalized. Her husband and daughter have continued the toy drive in her honor since her death in 2008.

“I never had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth Todorov, but from everything I’ve heard she was an amazingly generous and caring woman,” says LaBreck. “Her family, Shawn and Emily, have carried on that legacy, and we are lucky they have invited us to be a small part of it. I’d urge everyone to take a minute to say something kind, do something kind, and reflect on how fortunate we are.”

LaBreck says that Kaitlyn and Ava’s enthusiasm to do good this holiday season, and beyond, has been contagious. “I think it’s easy to forget how lucky we are. We get caught up in our own lives or the negativity on the news and forget that most of us are pretty fortunate. My hope with the toy drive is that our students start to look outside themselves, recognize that they have the ability and power to make other people’s lives better, and hopefully appreciate what they have a little more.”

Photo: Chocksett students Ava Poirier (top) and Kaitlyn Archambeault
work on posters for the toy drive.