'Pure hearted' girl, 7, leaves Christmas toy joy legacy

Children in Dundee who might not otherwise get presents on Christmas morning will have some to unwrap thanks to the legacy of a seven-year-old girl who died in a freak waterfall accident.

A Toy Recycle service, inspired by the generosity of Freya Skene who tragically lost her life at a beauty spot near Ossian's Cave in Highland Perthshire in July, is being held on the 18th of December.

Freya-Skene
Big hearted Freya Skene's Toy Recycle legacy lives on. Her mother Brooke Reid (pictured with her daughter) is volunteering at the CrossReach event in Dundee on the 18th of December.

Run by CrossReach, the operating name of the Church of Scotland's Social Care Council, people are being urged to donate good quality second hand toys and unwanted presents to ensure that children from disadvantaged families receive a visit from Santa Claus.

Freya's mum, Brooke Reid, 26, will be volunteering at the annual event, which has benefited 500 children so far, to see first-hand the impact that her "big hearted" daughter continues to have.

She said she could not wait to help out and "make things magical for years and years to come".

Resolve to help others

Toy Recycle founder, Lucie Conway, said: "COVID-19 has caused untold hardships this year and the CrossReach Toy Recycle will be needed more than ever.

"It is a referral service and I was in the process of working out where to hold it this year when we got the devastating news that little Freya who inspired it had died in a tragic accident.

"It is utterly heart breaking but my determination that it goes ahead despite COVID-19 restrictions has now become my passion and I hope that people will join me in ensuring that it is a success."

The Toy Recycle is usually held at Coldside Parish Church in Dundee but the building is not currently open to outside groups due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It is instead being held at The Friary on Tulideph Road – the base of CrossReach's Tayside Support Services.

The Toy Recycle was established in 2015 after Ms Conway saw a post on Facebook from Miss Reid who said her then three old daughter wanted to give some of her toys away to children less fortunate than her.

"My daughter Amanda saw this and argued the case for CrossReach's R and R (Revive and Restore ) Café on Main Street, Dundee, to get them," explained the CrossReach adult services support worker.

"Brooke decided she liked that idea of helping people in recovery of addictions so I picked up the toys in my car and little Freya was there helping her mum load them."

Ms Conway, who is based at The Friary, sourced a selection of boys' toys and since then the project has grown from strength to strength.

"We want people to please come forward to get help and be assured and confident that there is no stigma or judgement," she said.

"We are seeking volunteers to help us on the day before the event, cleaning all toys and setting up, and on the day itself.

"I am delighted to say that Brooke has accepted an invitation to volunteer and I hope she will be blown away by what her big hearted little girl started in 2015."

Brooks-Reid
Brooke Reid with her daughter Freya, 7, who tragically died in an accident in July this year.

Miss Reid said she was very grateful to Ms Conway for ensuring that her daughter's legacy lives on.

"Freya was an amazing little girl, forever in my heart she will stay, and preserving her memory is my only fight in life now and I can't wait to help out and make things magical for years and years to come," she added.

Act of kindness

Miss Reid explained that she was always honest with her daughter about how life could be tough for other children.

Recalling the moment back in 2015 when they decided to give away some of her toys, she said: "Freya had a pure heart, was very wise beyond her years and one day I explained to her about how some boys and girls don't get toys at Christmas.

"I never hid real life from her and while I would always protect her from it, I was always honest about the struggles people can have and the importance of always being kind as we don't know what others are going through.

"So we went through all her stuff together and we had loads and decided that the R and R Café was the perfect place to give things to.

"Who knew from that day, from Freya's act of kindness, she would have started something so big to enable many families to enjoy Christmas."

Butterfly effect

Miss Reid said the Butterfly Effect – a small act that can lead to big changes – summed up the impact Freya had on the world.

"She was always involved in everything she could to help create change and I'm so blessed to be her mummy," she added.

"This life is hard to live without her but I know she will be up there beaming and proud as punch."

Families referred to the service will be invited to view the toys on offer by appointment on the 18th of December and will be chaperoned by a volunteer following strict COVID-19 safety guidance.

They will be allowed to browse for approximately 10-15 minutes each and they can choose gifts for their child, which includes one large present per child.

FreyaSkene-Edinburgh
Freya and her mum, Brooke.

A letter will be put into each bag telling the story of Freya and how she inspired a project that has brought joy to people across Dundee.

Ms Conway said: "The Toy Recycle grows with each passing year and more than 500 children have had a pile of gifts under the tree thanks to the CrossReach Toy Recycle, the R and R and its six volunteers.

"All we ask is for people to have a little clear out and whatever toys they have that are no longer wanted or played with, please donate them to us.

"We don't have a Santa at our event, we just give parents and carers toys which they pick out for their own children, take home, wrap up and put under the Christmas tree."

Ms Conway said toys can be dropped off at The Friary on a Tuesday and Wed 9.30am – 3.30pm, at Armadillo Storage on Loons Road, which has provided a huge discount, or collected from their homes.

She added that referrals from teachers or nursery nurses for some toys will be accepted without having to provide names of children but it is preferable that parents/carers refer themselves.

To donate appropriate toys and for referrals to the service, contact Ms Conway on 07384836092 or email lucille.conway@crossreach.org.uk