The Press Herald Toy Fund doesn’t get to hear from the children we serve. They don’t know about us, and that’s as it should be.

But the fund does hear from many parents about how the pandemic has made life harder for them and their children.

And this week, a new survey of school social workers and counselors made headlines with a loud and clear message from Maine kids: We’re not alright.

Maine schoolchildren are showing signs of depression and anxiety similar to what is seen in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster, the survey found. It’s not just happening in some schools. Ninety percent of school mental health professionals reported an increase in symptoms of both depression and anxiety.

The experts say the stress, disruption of family and school routines, loss of socialization and other effects have taken a cumulative toll. On top of that, families that were financially insecure before the pandemic are falling into financial crisis. Most school counselors said insecurities about housing and food are creating a cascade of stress factors in many children.

Last year, the toy fund heard from medical and mental health professionals who were worried then about the emotional effect of the pandemic on children. None of us thought we’d be here again at the end of 2021, confronted by warnings that it’s getting worse.


Rebecca Hoffman-Frances, senior director of Clinical Innovation and Training at Maine Behavioral Healthcare and an expert on childhood trauma, told us last year that the pandemic and the disruptions of daily life were hard for a 6- or 10-year-old to understand.

“They might feel like this is the way life will be forever,” she said.

A year later, even many adults are feeling that way, a collective sense of loss that experts say is filtering down to children and adding to their stress.

The state’s new report about rising mental health problems called for more emotional support and counseling access in school, and encouraged parents to provide support at home and to seek help if needed.

Donors to the toy fund also are helping. Hoffman-Frances told us last year that the toys and other gifts provided by the fund are a way to help children cope with uncertainty, stress and trauma.

“The biggest job they have is to play and have fun. It’s important to their development,” said Hoffmann Frances. “Kids need joy right now.”


And they still do.

Donations from readers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Sun Journal in Lewiston and The Times Record in Brunswick allow the toy fund to provide gifts to thousands of children in need in York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties. To help, go to


James & Maureen Gorman $2,000
In honor of my parents, Earl & Muriel Goodspeed, who made every Christmas magical. Laura Goodspeed Feder $150
In honor of Ted & Nate Hodgson, who volunteered when they were kids $200
Leon & Paula Cooper $100
Denna Jill English $150
Anonymous $100
From Liam, Annie, Ella, Lauren and Kirsten $100
Alison & Anton Lahnston $50
Merry Christmas C, D, D, B and F $100
Anonymous $1
Gerald & Marie Day $50
In memory of mother, Phyllis Corcoran, and brother, Milo “Bud” Cummings, from Catherine Wright $100
Keili Curtis $25
Eliza Wright $25
Nicholas Ham $25
William & Susan Martens $200
Peace on Earth! Phil & Diane $100
In memory of Susan and Angela $100
From Blair & Bonnie, in memory of Rocky <3 $25
Duncan & Maria MacKellar $200
In memory of Janice And Steven $100
From past & present Westbrook Lions for Bruce Roberts, Merry Christmas! $150
Anonymous $100
Elizabeth Niven $150
In honor of Clara $25
Sarah & Daniel Drake $100
In memory of our friend, Henk Pols, from the Holt family $100
In memory of dear friend Jene Moffatt, from another Jean $100
In memory of Grampa Terry MacVane $50
Gregg Raymond $200
In loving memory of Emmons & Joan Johnson, from the Johnson & Hart families $200
In loving memory of Jane E. Quirk and Quirkie, from Phyllis & Annie $100
In memory of Marthann Hartford, from Buzz & Sandra Hartford $25
Darryl Arsenault $20
In honor of our 11 great-grandchildren $75
Emily & Ben Swan $100
Barbara Gauditz $1,000
Merry Christmas! From Ruth Jackson $35
Anonymous $100
Robert & Becky Malley $50
Kenneth & Nancy Gordon $200
Judi Deskus $200
Candace Litchfield $100
In memory of Geraldine and Warren $100
Barbara & Scott Seaver $100
Richard & Kimberly Brooks $100
Happy Holidays from Gabe & Sophie Rioux $100
Rick & Kathryn Davis $25
Lowell Pease $50
Rachel Hendrickson $100

TOTAL TO DATE:  $105,965

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