Family of Fallen Teen Honors Her Legacy With a Toy Drive in Columbia

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Columbia’s Volunteer Fire Department along with the family of a fallen teen is honoring her legacy by collecting toys for families in need.

Instead of Santa giving away gifts, many people from the community were dropping off toys for children in need to honor 17-year-old Megan VanDyke’s legacy after the teen passed away in September.

Heather VanDyke Cardona is Megan’s mom and this year she wanted to honor her daughter by partnering with the ministry where her daughter volunteered.

“Megan was a very kind, compassionate and loving soul and this would mean the world to her,” said VanDyke. “Giving back was something that she believed in, especially giving back to children.”

The annual toy drive is collaborative initiative by the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry and State Police. The effort is a part of collecting gently used toys so children in need can have presents on Christmas morning.

Delaney McDunnah is Megan’s best friend and said that she’s excited about remembering her friend while offering a little holiday magic to those who may need it.

“It really feels good helping out and doing stuff in her name because I know she would want to do it herself but I’m glad we’re doing it for her,” said McDunnah. “Helping others was always her number one priority.

The Windham Area Interfaith Ministry is accepting donations year around in honor Megan’s legacy in hopes to provide toys for children year around.

John Haddad is an EMT with Columbia’s Volunteer Fire Department who also knew Megan.

“She was one of my friends from school and she was also really good friends with one of my friends,” said Haddad. “Megan was definitely very kind and I think it’s good to be able to give back to a family or child in need.”

The community can drop off toys or donations at the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry at 866 Main Street in Willimantic. The Ministry is currently constructing a donation center inside the facility to honor Megan’s legacy.

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