CHARLESTOWN, In. (WDRB) -- Every Christmas, a southern Indiana father collects toys for area children's hospitals in honor of the son he lost.
This year, the loss of his wife won't stop his mission to make Christmas a little brighter for others.
Matt Reister, and his wife Christina, started "Direct Link to a Smile" in honor of his son Joseph, who passed away seven years ago.
Joseph was born at 25 weeks at just one pound and six ounces. He was the joy of his parents' lives.
"Never didn't have a smile on his face. He had a smile that would light up the room. He was a joy. I'm glad I got to be his dad," said Reister.
Joseph developed an intestinal infection and went into liver failure. He got a new liver, pancreas, small bowel and stomach at Riley Hospital for Children, but he caught a bug that his immune system couldn't fight off and passed away.
"We were both broken and the toy drive helped us put our hearts back together," said Reister.
Every year, the Reisters have collected about 10,000 toys. They pass the toys out to children at Riley and Norton Children's Hospital on Christmas day.
"Every one of these are a direct link to a smile. Every kid who gets these I can testify means the world to them. They can feel the love that each one of these donations has in it," he said.
This marks the eighth year of the toy drive, but the first year Reister will have to do it without his wife. In June, the two had a motorcycle accident when their back tire blew out. Christina never recovered.
"She was really the driving force to make sure that everyone knew the toy drive was coming and it would stay here forever," said Reister.
Now he's collecting toys alone, on a mission to continue the holiday tradition in honor of the son and wife he's lost.
"Her and Joseph were the light of this whole deal," he said. "Christmas is not presents, but it is when you're a kid. For the kids in the hospital it's a little bit of hope, it's a smile, it's knowing that you're not alone and people care."
If you're interested in donating, Reister is collecting until Christmas Eve. All toys must be new and non-toxic.
Reister can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-475-6670. He can pick toys up.
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