FITCHBURG -- Christmas is a time for giving; we all know the motto, "'Tis better to give than to receive."

People always drop a couple of bucks into the red kettle outside Market Basket, but does one really feel their hearts gladdened by it?

Allow me a few minutes to tell you about one such endeavor, recently started, which will do your heart good.

Gabriel Cronin is a 7-year-old boy from Gardner who recently served as the Fitchburg State University baseball team's Team IMPACT player. Gabe was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancerous cells are found in the bones or in soft tissue, at age 5. He spent last Christmas at the UMass Children's Medical Center in Worcester.

"Gabe is such a wonderful kid," Falcons baseball coach Kevin Barnaby said. "We are so lucky to have him and his family around our baseball program. He continues to inspire us, and push us to be better. How amazing is it to have a 7-year-old who has fought off cancer, not think about what presents he wants for Christmas, but instead think of the kids who are going through what he did?"

This year, Gabe -- now cancer-free -- and his twin sister Lily are looking to give back. The wide-eyed siblings approached Barnaby and wondered if the Falcons baseballers would be interested in helping them collect toys. The drive would benefit kids of all ages staying at UMass over this Christmas season.

Barnaby gave an emphatic yes.


"He wanted to return the generosity he had when he was in the hospital receiving treatments," Barnaby said.

But that's not all: Often overlooked are the parents of children in the hospital. This particular drive is also asking for donations for parents. Items for parents would include comfortable blankets, socks, gift cards to Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, etc. -- anything a parent would find useful during their stay.

Barnaby said gifts for both children and parents can be either wrapped or unwrapped and delivered to the Fitchburg State Athletic Office in the Recreation Center on North Street. The siblings and the Falcons hardballers are taking donations until Saturday, Dec. 15, to ensure they will be delivered to Worcester on time for Christmas.

For more information, contact Barnaby through email at