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Locals bring back hope with toy drive

Date: 10/18/2013

By Lori Szepelak

HOLYOKE – Bruce Rivest of Chicopee and Melvyn Hook of Chester are bringing back the Hope for the Holidays Brightside Toy Drive and Toy Run to help those less fortunate have a bright Christmas.

Brightside for Families and Children, a member of the Sisters of Providence Health System, is a nonprofit, social service organization dedicated to strengthening and supporting at-risk children and their families. Brightside, based out of Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, offers family support services including family stabilization, community support programs, in-home therapy and therapeutic mentoring, as well as specialized assessments such as neuropsychological evaluations and other testing.

Rivest and Hook met recently at the hospital to discuss why this endeavor is important to them – and the community.

“My son Dylan James’ birth had a big impact on wanting to give back and make the lives of children better, on top of loving Brightside and the work they do,” Rivest said, who added he had been adopted from Brightside at three months of age.

“When I was between eight and 10 years old, my mother, Diane Dolphin, fell back on Brightside for its services,” he added.

Rivest is overseeing the toy drive which is planned Nov. 1 and 2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Walmart in Chicopee. Representatives from Mix 93.1 KTYL will also be on hand as part of the kick-off festivities on Nov. 1.

“We will be collecting toys, gift cards and monetary donations for infants through teens,” said Rivest, adding that games, bicycles, books, arts and crafts, sports equipment and dolls are especially welcome.

For every item donated, a raffle ticket will be presented to the donor for a special raffle as a thank you for participating in the event.

Hook, vice president of the Stonecutters Chapter of the Massachusetts Widows Sons, is coordinating logistics for the Toy Run on Nov. 3. Hundreds of motorcycle riders will gather beginning after 9 a.m. at the Walmart in Chicopee. The ride will begin at 11 a.m. to Brightside for Families and Children on the Providence Hospital campus. The toy run will also collect donations for the children. Coffee will be available in the morning in the Walmart lot.

“As free masons we are all brothers who support our widows, orphans and worthwhile charities,” said Hook.

Hook noted it’s the “love of motorcycles that brings us together.”

The two men recently received the Outstanding Community Service Commitment Award from the Sisters of Providence Health System for their determination in revitalizing both the toy drive and toy run.

“I got into this to make a difference and it feels like I succeeded,” said Rivest.

Hook added that the acknowledgment was a testament to all the work of the Stonecutters for everything they do that goes unnoticed.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said Hook, adding that both events are “all about the kids, they are our future.”

Both men agreed that supporting causes like Brightside are important for the health of the overall community.

“That’s why the event’s theme is Hope for the Holidays,” said Rivest.

Santa Claus is expected to be out in front as the motorcyclists leave the Walmart parking lot and police escorts will be located at strategic locations along the route. Hot chocolate and cookies will await motorcyclists when they arrive at the Providence Hospital parking lot.

For more information or sponsorship opportunities, contact Suzanne Boniface at 748-9935 or

Following the Nov. 3 motorcycle ride, an After Party gathering is planned at the Waterfront Tavern, 920 Main St., Holyoke, at a cost of $10, which includes food and music with a cash bar. All proceeds raised will benefit Brightside.

For more information, visit “Hope for The Holidays” at