NORTHFIELD VILLAGE, Ohio — When Dawn Scherma started the non-profit "By Dawn's Early Light, A New Day A New beginning", she hoped to make an impact on foster child's life.
Three years later, the 52-year-old mother is bringing smiles to the faces of hundreds of kids in Summit, Portage, and Geauga counties through a toy drive.
"We wrap them up, each gift separately. We put name tags on them. We want to personalize everything for these children. We want them to feel special," Scherma said.
New toys for more than 350 children of all ages are being collected at various sites, including the Northfield Fire Department and Moose Lodge 2156 on Northfield Road.
"Stuff The Squad" events are taking place on Saturday, December 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Target in Macedonia and on December 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Walmart in Macedonia.
Scherma said there are about 16,000 kids in Ohio's foster care system, but believes that number could grow to 20,000 by the end of the year.
She indicated one reason for the rise in foster care placements is an epidemic of parents struggling with opioids and other drugs.
"That's a lot of children and one-third of these are drug-related," she said. "It's sad. It's really sad.
Scherma's personal family experience inspired her to start By Dawn's Early Light.
"I am a mom of a recovering heroin addict," she said.
Scherma was given custody of her daughter's son about eight years ago. He is now 9-years-old. Scherma stressed her daughter has turned her life around.
"She is completely in his (her son's) life now. She's five years clean and sober."
Northfield Village fire medic Bob Davet knows the heartache that comes with rescue calls involving parents overdosing.
"There's nothing more heartbreaking than going into a house and having to work on a parent and seeing a child sitting over on a chair. It really gets to you sometimes," Davet said.
In normal times, most of the foster children would attend a Christmas party to pick up their gifts donated through the toy drive. The pandemic has changed that, but Scherma said COVID-19 will not eliminate the smiles will bring after the toys are delivered to the children in foster homes.
"It's is absolutely priceless," she said. "It brings a lot of love in my heart."