Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive celebrates success

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Max Mendez, foreground left, founder of “Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive,” is a 9-year old resident of Merrimack and a fighter of leukemia, who throughout November spearheaded a toy drive that amassed around 4,000 toys for young patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, and for Boston Children’s Hospital.

MERRIMACK – Max Mendez, a third-grader at Reeds Ferry Elementary School, shared fist bumps and high fives, as he welcomed donors to the grand finale of Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive. The donations of toys were added to hundreds more sheltered in a donated storage unit placed alongside a neighbor’s garage in Merrimack.

The enterprise, concluded this year on Nov. 30, was launched in 2016 after Max was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Now 9, Max continues treatment at The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Max’s parents, Amy and Brian Mendez, thanked the crowd, saying they are proud of their son’s resolve to recover from a form of leukemia that affects the body’s lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Max’s dad called him a “superhero.”

“Having a child diagnosed with cancer is devastating enough,” Amy Mendez said. “Parents shouldn’t have more stress about providing some holiday happiness to their children.”

All of the toys and some donated cash are gifted to patients at the two world-class medical centers. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, founded in 1947, treats patients who come from around the world, while many of Children’s Hospital’s 395 beds are occupied by determined young warriors fighting cancer.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Dozens of posters heralding “Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive, were distributed around town and elsewhere to elicit support for the month-long toy drive.

“Max inspires me every day to be a better person,” his father added. “Watching Max go through this hard time with such a positive attitude encourages me to want to reciprocate the positives and help give to others.”

The Mendez family also thanked those at Merrimack-based Mi-Box New England, which donated the roomy storage unit to house the collection of toys. The owner-operators of the company also arranged delivery of the unit to the Boston hospitals.

“Last year, we collected 4,500 toys, and this year we are again well into the thousands,” Amy said. “Cancer treatment is a long process, and it’s physically, emotionally, and financially draining. I feel like this toy drive is a way of giving Max’s diagnosis a purpose.”

And Max has adopted a philosophy for victory over his medical challenge, which he shares while enjoying hot chocolate with his brother, Chase Mendez, 3, and a crew of good friends from school.

“Keep pushing,” Max said. “It will get better.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Merrimack’s Max Mendez, left, a third-grade student at Reeds Ferry Elementary School and the founder in 2016 of Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive, along with his friend, AJ Lyna, 14, an eighth-grade student at Merrimack Middle School, and brother Chase Mendez, age 3, add more toys to a storage unit donated for a month and delivered to Boston by supporters at Mi-Box New England, of Merrimack.

Loretta Jackson can be reached at ljackson@nashuatelegraph.com.