By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Just a week ago, organizers of the annual toy drive were concerned — they didn’t have many donations, and there were many families to provide for.
“We were struggling a bit,” Sheila Csicseri, of the town’s Youth, Parks and Recreation Department said.
But then, a first-grader at St. Amelia’s, Sarah Lyman, came up with an idea all on her own. Her seventh birthday was last week, and instead of keeping all her presents, she chose to donate them.
“She wanted to give to other kids who don’t have as much as she does,” Sarah’s mother, Sovereren said.
Csicseri was astounded by Sarah’s generosity.
“She is just an angel, and without her, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Csicseri said.
Over the weekend, Sovereren threw a birthday party for Sarah at Sheridan Park Fire Hall. Sovereren said 75 people came to the party, all with a gift in hand.
On Wednesday, Sarah and Sovereren attended the distribution of the toys at the Sheridan Park Youth Center, so Sarah could see how many people she helped. Teachers, social workers and administrators from the local schools came to pick up toys for the families at the school.
And each one of those teachers stopped and said thank you to Sarah.
Lisa Wdowka, a teacher at Franklin Elementary School, especially appreciated Sarah’s kindness.
“Thank goodness for her,” she said.
Wdowka said 67 children at Franklin were in need of gifts this year.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and every year, the need goes up and the donations go down,” she said. “It is amazing what these kids face, and it is nice to be able to help them.”
Many of the teachers deliver the toys themselves, and are able to see how happy the receiving families are.
“It is very emotional,” Mary Jo Leslie, a teacher at Jefferson Elementary said. “It’s a great way to take out the commercialism and really appreciate the time.”
Csicseri said La Hacienda restaurant on Brighton Road also donated a large number of toys to the drive this year.
The town has run the drive for 25 years, with the Youth, Parks and Recreation Department picking it up 15 years ago.
“It’s a sight to see when you see all the toys given out there,” Councilman Dan Crangle, who oversees the department, said. “There are a lot of families we put smiles on for Christmastime.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150