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Saturday's picnic will honor boy's 'giving spirit'

Goal of Saturday's celebration is to raise money for toys and grants for families with sick children

At 11 years old, Tucker Arnold wanted to pay it forward. Now his family is making sure his goodwill is not forgotten.

Tucker Arnold was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March 2010. The Tualatin boy spent his 11th birthday at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where he received a surplus of gifts from friends and family. Not knowing what to do with them all, Tucker decided to load a wagon with some of his gifts and distribute them to other children in the ward, thoughtfully assigning a specific toy to each child.

'After that experience, he started discussing how he would like to do that when he got better,' said Jen Arnold, Tucker's mother. 'So I wasn't surprised that, when we talked during the week he passed, he still wanted that to happen. He had a really caring, giving spirit about himself.'

Tucker died in February, after 11 months of treatment and two months of hospital living. When his mother considered memorializing him with a bench or a tree, she decided a toy-donating charity would be the best way to honor her son.

Arnold and her twin sister, Deborah Adams, also of Tualatin, co-founded Tucker's Toybox in order to give sick kids a chance to have fun and be reminded of simpler days.

'I was very involved in Tucker's treatment,' Adams said. 'I knew before he passed that this was one of his final wishes.

'It's been bittersweet, but very rewarding. It's something we're very passionately involved in.'

Tucker's Toybox is filled with donations in the form of cash, checks or boxes of toys left on Adams' stoop.

This Saturday will be the charity's first organized fundraiser. They are organizing a picnic at the Tualatin Community Park's Rustic Shelter from 2 to 6 p.m., featuring food, family activities and raffle prizes. A hot dog meal will be provided for $5, with a suggested donation of one toy per family in attendance.

'Being that this is our first fundraiser, I have no idea what to expect,' Jen Arnold said. 'But more than just a fundraiser, we think of this as a gift back to the community. We got a lot of support from the school district, and from people that just knew about it who came to support us. We want this to be a place for fun activities, for good memories to be made.'

All money raised from the event will support a new project - helping single mothers with children undergoing cancer treatment to pay their bills.

'I was a single mom throughout the whole process of Tucker's treatments,' Jen Arnold said. 'Typically, one of the full-time employees of the home has to give up their job because the treatment program is intensive, and it's quite often deadline- and time-oriented. You have to work your schedule around your child's treatment. I was the only breadwinner in my home, so it posed quite an inconvenience and a struggle for us.'

She said she didn't want others to struggle the way she did.

'We had to move into an apartment from our house; downsize quite a bit,' Jen Arnold continued. 'We received such great support, but I did find myself at one point exhausting all of the options that were out there for me. That's one of the things I want to be able to provide.'

For more information or to make a donation, visit tuckerstoybox.org.

To submit donations directly into the charity's account, visit the West Coast Bank Tualatin branch and ask for the Tucker Arnold Foundation account.