Little Rebecca Chusid was 15 months old when she died because of a heart malformation. But for the past 15 years, her parents, Westporters Adam and Monica Chusid, have worked to keep her memory alive by bringing smiles to other children's faces.
"When I held her in my arms for the last time, I looked at her and said: 'I promise you that we're going to make something of your life. We're going to honor you,''' Monica said. "When we were trying to figure out what we could do, my husband said it should be for kids, so we thought of a toy drive."
With support from the Conservative Synagogue , their temple, the Chusids brought the holiday toy drive to fruition. And though it started out small, Monica said it's grown steadily every year.
This year alone, about 20 organizations inside and outside Fairfield County will get toys collected in the drive, which kicked off around Thanksgiving. Some of the benefiting organizations include Westport's Homes With Hope Bachrach Center, Bridgeport Hospital, The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Jewish Family Services in Bridgeport and the Toy Closet Program at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.
"People asked us if they could participate. We looked for organizations through people we knew, and looked at ones we heard about and read about," Monica said. "That's how we got involved with so many organizations."
Although so many organizations are involved, Monica said providing enough toys to each is never a problem because the Westport community is "very, very giving." The toys are not counted, but she estimates about 500 to 1,000 toys are collected.
And for the Chusids, the success of the toy drive translates into remembrance for Rebecca, the twin sister to their youngest daughter, Jenna.
"To me, the most important thing is that Rebecca's name is always out there and that her name is connected to something so wonderful, giving and caring," Monica said. "We want people to remember not just the toy drive, but the beautiful child behind the toy drive."
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