Merrimack youth leads campaign

Max Mendez, a third-grade student at Reeds Ferry Elementary School, shared fistbumps and high fives, as he welcomed donors to the grand finale of Mighty Max’s Mega Toy Drive. The donations of toys were added to hundreds more sheltered in a donated storage unit placed alongside a neighbor’s garage in Merrimack.

The enterprise, concluded this year on Friday, Nov. 30, was launched in 2016 after Max was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The young man, now age 9, continues treatment at The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, and at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Amy Mendez, Max’s mother, and Brian Mendez, Max’s father, thanked the crowd. They said they are proud of their son’s resolve to recover from a leukemia that affects the body’s lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. His dad, Brian, called Max a “superhero.”

“Having a child diagnosed with cancer is devastating enough,” Amy said. “Parents shouldn’t have more stress about providing some holiday happiness to their children.”

All of the toys and some donated cash are gifted to patients at the two world-class medical centers. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was founded in 1947 and draws patrons from across the globe. Boston Children’s Hospital offers 395 beds, many occupied by determined young warriors against cancer.

“Max inspires me everyday to be a better person,” Brian added. “Watching Max go through this hard time with such a positive attitude encourages me to want to reciprocate the positives and help give to others.”

The Mendez family also thanked those at Mi-Box New England, on Continental Boulevard, for the donation of the roomy storage unit. The owner-operators of the company also arranged delivery of the unit to its Boston destinations.

“Last year we collected 4,500 toys and this year, also thousands,” Amy said. “Cancer treatment is long and physically, emotionally, and financially draining, so I feel like this toy drive is a way of giving Max’s diagnosis a purpose.”

Max has a philosophy for victory over his medical challenge. He speaks as he shares hot chocolate with his brother, Chase Mendez, age 3, and a crew of good friends from school.

“Keep pushing,” Max said. “It will get better.”