Jesslyn Cleland's glass isn't just half-full, it's over-flowing.
"I have a great fiance, great family, great friends," said Cleland who has six sons, two daughters and four granddaughters. "If love is what we have, we don't need more."
While Cleland is one to look on the bright side, her personal journey through life's challenges has affirmed a belief that love has the power to transcend despair.
"I know that feeling because I've lived it," said Cleland, who has been a school bus driver with First Student (formerly Laidlaw) for seven years. "You don't know until you've been there and on that side that needed it."
Life was going as usual until she hit a bump in the road, actually a few. Her marriage unraveled, and then she got seriously ill.
"I got really sick. I had cancer. I was on disability, and life was rough."
The next Christmas figured to be a difficult one for the Cleland family, but several people reached out and helped turned buttermilk into eggnog. Chris Mauger, principal of her son's elementary school, Carmel, and assistant principal Siobhan Weston were pivotal in transforming darkness into light.
"That Christmas my son Dominic wanted a $100 toy car, but there was no way."
So the Carmel Elementary staff secretly gathered resources and presented Cleland's family with Christmas packages, including a very special one for Dominic.
"In that gift was that car," said Cleland, fighting back tears. "He [Mauger] changed that boy's Christmas from disappointment to the best Christmas. Just the fact that they would reach out and take care of my family that way...."
That did it for Cleland. She became determined to help spread holiday hope to as many local children as she could. And so with the help of Cub Scout Troop #152, the Knights of Columbus, her employer and others she started a toy drive.
Cleland believes that people need to extend a hand to local children in need. And every bit helps.
"If everybody takes care of kids up here, we can make it. Let's make sure our kids here are taken care of. Home first."
She's helping to spread that message to her "cubbies," who last weekend helped raise money outside a local shopping center.
"All the Scouts and their siblings participate in the toy drive. It's got to start somewhere," she said.
Cleland beat breast cancer, and she finds a way to put food on the table for her children. Helping others has helped her to count her blessings and put focus on the needs of others.
"Life isn't easy, but I've got kids who are healthy. I have a mom who is 75. I've got a car. I'll do whatever I can if it makes somebody else happy."
Cub Scout Pack 152 will host a "Breakfast With Santa" to raise money for Cleland's annual toy drive from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Elks Lodge. The event will feature all-you-can-eat pancakes and other breakfast items. Price is $5 for adults; $3 for children; free for those who bring an unwrapped gift.