Suicide support group holds annual Toy Drive in honor of lost loved ones

By Katerina Belales

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WENY) – Members of a local suicide support group in the Southern Tier are honoring their lost loved ones by giving back to the community through an annual tradition this holiday season.

Founded by Deb Maxwell after she lost her son, David, to suicide in 2014, Smile Through The Storms’ main initiative is to provide a safe space for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide.

“It truly rocked my world,” she said. “It rocked my world big time. I attended some grief support [groups] locally in the area. [While they were] amazing, great people, they didn’t understand suicide grief. It’s different. So I put together this group along with a lot of outside help and ideas, and we had our first support group in December of 2014.”

To honor their lost loved ones, Smile Through the Storms has been holding an annual Toy Drive during the holiday season. All toys collected will be donated to the pediatric units at Arnot Ogden Medical Center and Corning Guthrie, as well as homeless shelters throughout Elmira.

“All of the toys that are donated are given to the little people in memory of our angels gone too soon,” said Maxwell.

Anyone interested in donating to Smile Through the Storms’ Toy Drive can contact Maxwell by email at or by phone at (607) 241-6624. Donations can be dropped off at her home address — which she will provide after contact — and will be accepted until Dec. 15.

“Help us make a little person’s life and time in the hospital with just a little bit of a smile,” she said. “Any and all donations are greatly appreciated.”

For more information on the organization itself, including how to join and its meeting times, visit their website at or their Facebook page.


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