A small-business owner and devoted teacher in Michigan, whose toy store collapsed under the coronavirus pandemic, could have tried to sell off the rest of her store in order to recoup some of her losses.
Instead, Marie Liburdi, who owned and lost Teaching Toys in Trenton, as well as one of her beloved Montessori schools in the area, decided to donate everything in her store to a toy drive taking place at Canterbury Village, a Michigan landmark that is home to droves of shops and restaurants.
It was roughly $45,000 worth of toys, Liburdi told FOX Business.
It all started after Liburdi saw Canterbury Village and Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers' combined initiative to collect toys for a local charity, The Bottomless Toy Chest.
The Bottomless Toy Chest is a nonprofit organization that delivers toys weekly to pediatric cancer patients in area hospitals, including Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Beaumont Children’s Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Sparrow and St. John Providence. In doing so, the organization hopes to "lift the spirits and promote a positive state of mind in young cancer patients" while they are going through their treatments.
"I saw it and thought 'that is where my store is going,'" Liburdi recalled.
Liburdi opened her toy store -- full of toys that help children engage and challenge their physical skills as well as their cognitive abilities -- two years ago. In March, after she was forced to shut down to stem the spread of COVID-19, she said she received no support from her landlord who she said "didn't want to hear anything about late rent."
Within a week's time, she knew they were in trouble.
After opening up in the summer, Liburdi said she struggled as long as she could but they were "already going down fast."
"It would have made more sense to sell," Liburdi told FOX News. Not only is she locked into a lease for another year but she still owes roughly $18,000 that she borrowed to open the store about two years ago.
However, for Liburdi, who dedicated her career to "serving thousands and thousands of children," the decision to donate her toys was an easy one.
"I just love children so much and I would serve them in any way, shape or form from the bottom of my heart," she said. "I knew right then and there I wanted to give them the whole store and I would just have to deal with the finances, whichever way I had to."
Liburdi said she now faces "continued financial devastation" at that store and that she won't be done paying off that loan for years.
However, "I just hope that people recognize that if I can do that, we can all give one little sliver," she said.
It's her hope that this will inspire a "chain reaction" prompting others to "think, 'Well, you know, I've got two of these. I can give one away,'" she said.
Aside from Liburdi's donation, the owner of Canterbury Village, Keith Aldridge, said they have already filled six pickup trucks worth of toys.
"It's taken on a life of its own," Aldridge told FOX Business, adding that they still have more collection days ahead.
Donations will be accepted through Dec. 31 at Canterbury Village in Lake Orion.