EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 10, 2013

Putting others ahead of herself

Girl gives her birthday gifts to needy children

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Six-year-old Bridget Torrisi of Haverhill was thinking of others when she invited a group of friends to her birthday party last month.

In her invitation, she asked them to bring toys, but that they weren’t meant for her. Instead, she said she planned to give them to children who needed the toys more than she did.

Bridget’s mom, Sheila Torrisi, said her daughter actually had two birthday parties: One with friends on Nov. 16, then one with family the next day.

Bridget told her mother that with two parties, she was probably going to receive too many gifts. With Christmas coming and possibly more gifts from Santa, she asked if she could give any toys she received from friends to the Toys for Tots program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

“There were going to be too many toys for me,” Bridget said. “I wanted other kids to have them, kids whose parents can’t buy them some.”

Bridget and her mother sent out party invitations saying that in lieu of gifts for Bridget, friends were to each bring one toy to be donated to Toys for Tots.

“I loved that it was her idea,” Sheila Torrisi said.

A kindergarten student at Sacred Hearts School in Bradford, Bridget has become familiar with the theme of giving to others. So has her sister Erin, 8, a third-grader at Sacred Hearts.

Their school often holds collections for members of the community, such as a Thanksgiving adopt-a-family program in which parents are asked to pay their children money to do chores around the house, and then the children donate whatever they earned to the program. The money is used to buy food for the Sacred Hearts food pantry so that families can be assured of having a hearty and nutritious Thanksgiving meal.

“Kids also hear about the Toys for Tots program, so it’s something Bridget has been aware of,” Sheila Torrisi said.

In all, Bridget set aside 19 birthday gifts from friends, ranging from popular children’s games such as Candyland, Hungry Hungry Hippos and Transformers Dragon Track, as well as arts and crafts supplies and other fun and educational gifts.

“It’s all the kinds of toys that kids want today,” Sheila Torrisi said.

She said she and her husband, Mark Torrisi, set the gifts aside and waited for the holiday season to arrive so they could find out where Toys for Tots drop boxes would be located.

She said that in appreciation, Bridget signed thank-you cards she is sending to her friends.

“For her birthday next year, Bridget wants to ask her friends to bring money to donate to people in need,” Sheila Torrisi said.

The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December of each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. More information about the program is available online at www.toysfortots.org.