It all started with a dinner at in Eldersburg. After Toby Liska, 11, and his sister Jenna, 6, won toys in the “claw machine,” they realized some kids sitting at a table nearby weren’t as lucky, and decided to give their prizes to the two children they didn’t know.
The young boy said this action and the way the children reacted to him made him want to reach out more, realizing that some local children won’t be as lucky as he is to have toys under their tree this Christmas.
“It feels good to give back,” said Toby, an honor student at . “I don’t know how it feels to have basically no money and not really have a Christmas and I feel bad for them so it makes me feel good for kids that can’t have a Christmas to have toys to give them.”
So the planning process started. Toby’s mother Sarah left it up to her son, encouraging him but not making phone calls or contacting businesses to set up the charity event.
“He really did this all by himself and it really is one local kid helping other kids,” said Sarah Liska. “I refused to help him. I wanted him to be able to do it all by himself.”
Toby started with the county, getting the project approved through “Neighbors In Need,” a Carroll County program that helps to provide Christmas gifts and food to needy families.
Then came planning the event itself. Toby talked with Kristi Hyde, owner of , Eldersburg's newest children's party business, which is where Toby's brother, Hunter, 16, works. Kristi came up with the idea for a “Breakfast with Santa” in which kids could bounce and eat for $5 with the donation of a toy.
Then came the hard part – getting major businesses to donate supplies for the event. As an 11-year-old who is still learning the art of communication, this was a crash course in phone manners.
“I’m always scared calling people I don’t know because I don’t know how they’re going to react and I don’t know what to say,” said Toby. “But once I made a couple of calls, I figured out what works.”
“Toby is a good communicator for 11 years old I wanted to see him do it and I wanted to see him figure it out on his own,” said his mother.
“Everyday he would come bursting in the door from school, grab my laptop and the phone, and get right to work. In-between homework, sports and school he somehow hammered out the details one by one. It wasn't easy and it didn't come together overnight so I'm very proud that he stuck with it.”
On Sunday, Dec. 11, Toby's hard work paid off. More than 150 people came through the doors during the three-hour event, dropping off more than 200 gifts for Toby’s cause.
Also, through his incessant phone calling, the young boy got 100 percent of the food donated for the event through , , , and grocery store. In addition, Toby even got photographer David MacDonald to donate services for the charity, covering all aspects of event planning.
Toby said he’s looking forward to making this a yearly event.
“I am not sure Toby realizes how extraordinary he is,” said Sarah. “He thinks this is simply what people do. With that attitude, compassion and drive it's no surprise that he made this happen. I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of him.”