Grieving family donates 2-year-old's gifts: 'He had a lot of joy'

Grieving family donates 2-year-old's gifts: 'He had a lot of joy'

EUGENE, Ore. -- A local family, struck by unimaginable tragedy, gave to the less fortunate in the name of their 2-year-old nephew.

Maxwell Maciejewski's aunt and uncle, Laurie and Aaron Heuser, want to honor the 2-year-old's memory by giving to other young children this holiday season.

"He had a lot of joy. He had a lot of love," said Laurie Heuser, as the couple stood outside the U.S. Marine Corp Building in Springfield.

Max was pronounced dead at a local hospital on Sunday, brought there unresponsive from his grandmother's house on Bell Avenue in West Eugene. Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said there's an open death investigation, as there is with any unattended death.

In his short life, 2-year-old Max experienced the heartbreak of a lifetime in only a few short months.

"My little sister, Max's mother, passed away." Laurie said his mother was just 31 years old when she died from pneumonia on October 29th. It was the second tragedy for the family this year. Max's grandfather, suffering from leukemia, passed away just one month before - at age 62.

"So the family has had nothing but tragedies," Laurie's husband, Aaron Heuser said. "Max was left with almost no one."

At the time, the community came together and set up a 'Go Fund Me' account to raise money to support Max throughout his life.

"He really enjoyed sharing," Laurie recalled. "It's one of the traits that I found to be so special about him. Most 2-year-olds go through the 'me stage' and 'my stage.' But he got more out of sharing than having his own."

The Heusers also just moved back to Oregon, from Washington D.C., to be there for him.

"My work loaded me down with toys to drive out here for him," Aaron said.

As a going away gift, Aaron's co-workers, at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda Maryland, picked out toys, clothes, and books which they had planned to give Max for Christmas.

They never got the chance to see the joy in Max's eyes.

"I want to make sure that his voice is heard," Laurie said. "I want to make sure his story doesn't fall through the cracks."

The Heusers want this to be about Max's life. They donated his Christmas presents to 'Toys for Tots.'

"I want to make sure that there's some kind of joy or some kind of light that comes out of all this darkness," Laurie said.

It's a selfless act from a family that's already been through so much.

"On behalf of the Marine Corp, we're sorry for your loss," Kevin Simerka with the U.S. Marine Corp said. "Our condolences go out to you and your family and we will make sure your toys go to someone's son that could definitely use the toys you've given today."

The 'Go Fund Me' account now works as a memorial, helping to raise money for Max's funeral. But Max still lives on in the smiling faces of all the children, who’s Christmas he helped make a little brighter.

"That's why we're doing it," Aaron said. "That's the hope that we're grasping for in this dark time... Is that max can share and that's what he liked to do," Laurie added.

Toys for Tots will be giving out Maxwell's toys, along with all of their donations this year, this weekend.