It all began when the couple asked for toy truck donations in their son's memory instead of flowers for his funeral. Now they're helping children with vision problems.By Lynne Hayes-Freeland

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In 2012, Jason and Liz Derkosh suffered an unimaginable loss when their 2-year-old son Maddox fell into the African painted dog exhibit at The Pittsburgh Zoo and died.

“He’s with us. We think about him every day”, said Liz Derkosh.

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Since then, they’ve been channeling their grief into helping other children. And now, they’re taking that help to the next level.

The “Trucks For Maddox” charity began when the couple asked for toy truck donations in their son’s memory instead of flowers for his funeral. They had planned to give away whatever toys they received to other children.

But what they didn’t plan on was the outpouring of trucks they received. Thousands of toy trucks arrived at the funeral home.

“I can remember walking into that funeral home and it was just overwhelming. It was just everywhere, and that saved us. It gave us a purpose — to have them and box them. I mean we did that for a long time”, said Liz.

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To date, more than 16,000 trucks have been collected. Each one is tagged with a sticker that reads “From your friend, Maddox Derkosh”.

All of the trucks are donated to local charities on an as-requested basis and are replenished every year through continued donations. But now the Derkosh family is expanding the “Trucks For Maddox” charity to include a fund to help kids with vision problems.

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Maddox himself had to wear glasses, even at such a young age.

“I remember getting the news that he needed glass and how devastated I was”, said Liz.

The Derkosh family has partnered with The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation to create the Trucks For Maddox Optical Assistance Fund.

(Photo provided)

The Eye Care Clinic at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh sees about 10 children a month who don’t have insurance coverage or the money for glasses. This new fund could help provide glasses for as many as 120 kids a year.

“We hold a golf outing to raise money for trucks. So when the trucks keep rolling in, and we’re not using the funds to buy trucks, Jason and I were like ‘what are we going to do with these funds?’ And Maddox wore glasses so that made the most sense to us”, said Liz.

Jason and Liz now have two daughters, ages 6 and 4. They know all about their brother Maddox. They help put stickers on the trucks, pass out hats at the golf outings and they ask questions about him, keeping Maddox very much part of daily life.

“To them, there’s a comfortable level to asking those questions. And they’ll tell you all about him, ‘Yes, I have a brother and his name is Maddox’. And they’ll go on and on. They have no problem telling anyone about him. We want him to live forever,” said Liz.

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For more information on the Trucks For Maddox Optical Assistance Fund, including how to donate to it, click here https://www.givetochildrens.org/trucksformaddox

Lynne Hayes-Freeland